A World First for Irish Trad Arts

An Ród seo Romhainn - the five year Development Programme of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí - was officially launched by Dr Tomás Ó Canainn at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Clonmel on Saturday 28th August. The new Development Programme for Irish Traditional Arts is the most radical and comprehensive initiative since the foundation of Comhaltas in 1951. It is thought that no other country in the world will have such an ambitious response to the potential and needs of native culture in the everyday lives of the citizens and Diaspora.

The Programme is underpinned by the Comhaltas vision for the traditional Arts; ‘The traditional arts should be an enriching part of the lives of Irish people everywhere, particularly our young people; these arts should be a living, highly visible and vibrant part of society; they should be easily accessible to all; and their unique social, cultural and economic benefits should be fully realised by communities and individuals throughout the country and in Irish communities abroad,’

The Programme has taken three years to construct involving 10 working groups - practitioners, academics and organisers who consulted with interested parties at home and abroad. They focused on Irish traditional music, song, dance, language and storytelling.

The programme envisages eight Regional Development Teams and Resource Centres - six in the South and two in the North - as follows: Dublin, South East, South West, West, North West, North Midlands/North East, Belfast and one other in the North.

The Regional Centres will intereact with ‘Meitheal’ Groups in each county involving various stakeholders throughout the country and abroad. These in turn will reflect, enhance and develop the existing network of activities.

The Programme will have a strong education and community focus which aims to connect in a partnership role with the education system. The total operational investment is euro5,141,000, which, will be spread over 5 years. The total capital cost of the Regional Resource Centres - which includes modifications to existing buildings provided by Comhaltas, which has 16 cultural centres through Ireland - will be euro22.6m spread over 5 years. This is a total investmen of over euro27m.

At present Comhaltas invests over euro12m annually in its cultural programmr, which is generated from its own resources. It is envisaged that this will amount to euro65m during the five year Programme.

The organisation has 400 branches on four continents; 1,000 classes weekly and 600 music teachers qualified under its TTCT Diploma Course; it has a nationwide graded examination - the SCT; 25,000 perfomers have their standards validated in the Fleadh Cheoil network annually and there is also a Performance Certification facility. Up to 2m people are serviced by Comhaltas annually.

A considerable amount of preparatory work has already been undertaken to implement the Programme. Comhaltas will shortly enter into discussions with relevant parties - public and private - with a view to further progressing the proposals.