Comhaltas Live

By Willie Fogarty

“One of the most significant developments since the establishment of Comhaltas in 1951”. This is how Director General of Comhaltas, Senator Labhrás Ó Mhurchú, described the new and exciting programming, which has just commenced, on the Internet in March 2003.

Comhaltas Live is a 20-minute programme every week on the internet featuring the best of Irish music, song and dance. The emphasis is on genuine traditional material (both from within and from outside the Comhaltas organisation), and each programme has a varied content drawn mainly from the following sources:

The programming is now very opportune in view of the worldwide dimension and scale of Comhaltas - over 40,000 members spread over 4 continents, many of whom do not get an opportunity to experience Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Fleadh Nua, etc. A priority of the programme is to feature items from the overseas Branches as much as possible.

The quality and enjoyment of the programme is much enhanced by the selection of Ann Marie McGowan as presenter. As well as being an accomplished fiddle player Ann Marie is well known to many Comhaltas members, having presented Comhaltas tour concerts in Ireland, Britain and North America.

Each programme is available for 7 days, 24 hours per day and can be looked at immediately (streamed), or downloaded at any time during the week. Downloading enables people to build up their own Archive of material for viewing any time at their convenience. A series of 20 programmes (almost 5 months) is available for a subscription of euro30 (plus of 6.30 VAT in EU countries only). This is a very modest charge in view of the very significant development and running costs.

Comhaltas members and their friends are encouraged to do their utmost to maximise the take-up of the series to ensure its viability as very significant development for Comhaltas.

The programming was the brainchild of Willie Fogarty, a member of Comhaltas for over 20 years. Willie presented the concept to the inaugural meeting of Meitheal in January 2002, and spent the following 12 months researching and developing it. In August 2002 he set up, with his nephew Ken, The Irish International Webcasting Co Ltd (IIWC) to research, advance and run the project.

Their background and experience, together with their vision and commitment was the ideal blend for the successful establishment of the project. Ken learned traditonal music from Willie and from Kathleen Nesbitt. He has considerable experience in broadcasting and for the last 5 years has been a cameraman and editor with TV3, covering news, sport and features, including overseas assignments. Willie has considerable management experience, having acted as Assistant County Manager with Limerick County Council, before opting for a voluntary redundancy and setting up his own TV and Video production company. The company has produced a considerable amount of programming material for RTE and TG4. In traditional music he holds a TTCT and has won All-Ireland senior titles in Button Accordion, Duet and Trio, as well as being a member of Paddy O’Brien’s great 3-in-a-row winning Ormond Céilí Band.

Says Willie:

Ken and I could not have developed the project without the immense help which we received from Tipperary Institute, through Chief Executive Officer Pádraig Culbert and in particular from John Hannafin and Tony Hevey, ICT Specialists, whose expertise and enthusiasm has been inspiring. We are also indebted to Shannon Development, particularly Brian Keating, for their great support and encouragement, and to our friend Ray Gavin for helping us in so many ways. The staff at Cultúrlann na hÉireann and in particular Brian Prior and Séamus Mac Mathúna and many Comhaltas colleagues in Ireland and overseas, including Meitheal colleague Willie Larkin, have given us enormous help, often at very short notice. The project would never have taken off had not Labhrás Ó Mhurchú, Director General, placed his trust in us and given us the freedom to proceed. At the same time he was always available to give us his valuable help and advice all the way through. We look forward to working with members at all levels throughout the organisation to make Comhaltas Live as beneficial and enjoyable to everyone as we possibly can. In particular we welcome views and suggestions through the online feedback facility.

Comhaltas Live can be accessed at and also on