Honoured By His Own People

Eamon Lacey, ‘The Nationalist’

The highest civic honour that the county of Tipperary can bestow has been conferred on  Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú for a lifetime dedicated to the promotion and development of Irish culture.

To be honoured ‘under his own roof’ and by his own people. This represented one of the highlights of a distinguished  career as a politician and as one of the leading visionaries in the country of the promotion of Irish  music, language, song and dance. It was the first civic honour to be accorded to an individual by Tipperary County Council and the ceremony was conducted at the Brú Ború centre last Friday evening.

Glowing tributes were paid to Senator Ó Murchú and his wife Úna  whose powerful partnership had overseen the establishment of the Brú Ború heritage centre in Cashel and its successful development as a major tourist attraction  and a cultural beacon at home and abroad. Representatives of Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, along with Independent members of the County Council, Deputy Mattie McGrath and Joe McGrath, Chief Executive of Tipperary County Council, all paid tribute to Senator Ó Murchú. The tributes were led by County Council Chairman Seamus Hanafin, who said that civic receptions were not lightly granted and were only awarded in recognition  of the most significant achievement. The fact that it was now an all-Tipperary Council made the honour all the more special.

The council chairman said there was no more appropriate place than Brú Ború, a place that was testament to the determination and energy of Labhrás and Úna Ó Murchu, to recognise their exemplary achievements. He said the hallmark of his stewardship as Ardstiurthóir of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann had been innovation, inclusion and excellence. Cllr Hanafin said Senator Ó Murchú  throughout his career  had shown a tremendous ability to work with others and to extend the hand of friendship. ‘There was no better example of that than the role he played in bringing Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to Derry in 2013 which made a major  contribution to building bridges between the different communities.’ Two years later Comhaltas received the prestigious  European award for its achievements in promoting reconciliation and co-operation among member states.

The chairman  applauded the success of Brú Boru and the role it has played in promoting Irish culture and tourism by performing worldwide for Irish embassies. This included  representing Ireland at four World Expos and accompanying President Mary McAleese to perform for the Sultan of Oman.

‘Throughout his life he has always remained a proud Tipperary man and his native county is proud of  him – he is a credit to Tipperary’, said Chairman Cllr Hanafin proposing the motion to accord a civic reception to Senator Ó Murchú. The proposal was seconded by Cllr John Fahey and unanimously approved by the  members of the county council.

Accepting the award, Senator O'Murchu told the invited guests that no words could express the heartfelt appreciation he had for the members of the council for bestowing such a signal honour on him. Reflecting on what he described as a ‘very lucky journey’ Úna and he had undertaken, Senator Ó Murchu said that one of the great motivating emotions in life was a pride and love of native county. That great sense of pride and love was experienced, he said, through the admiration of sports people  and their exploits, and through the achievements of young people. It was achieved through appreciation of those who sacrificed their all for no personal gain so that future generations could have independence and control of their own destiny, through the work of the farming community as they nurtured the land that was dearly fought for, and through business people who strive to provide employment at home.

 Senator Ó Murchú said that all this sense of community about which he  spoke was encapsulated by Charles J. Kickham in Knocknagow. Kickham, he said, spoke  about the spirit of the people, and the message the writer and patriot wished people to embrace was that unless we had our freedom and our independence, all the other dreams and all the other aspirations could not follow. Senator Ó Murchú hoped that  message would not be forgotten during the centenary celebrations to mark 1916. ‘It was never about fighting, never about violence. It was just  about being allowed to be ourselves, because we knew that as an oppressed people our education would have been stilted and opportunities would have been denied’, said Senator Ó Murchú.

Senator Ó Murchú said the family was the bedrock of our society and that it was important that legislators, community activists  and communities bear that in mind and ensure that the family is nurtured and respected. Huge challenges had to be faced, insisted Senator Ó Murchú. Hundreds and thousands of young people had to emigrate and ‘no parent wanted that for their children.’ Nobody, he said, should settle for the baubles or be distracted by the glitter: ‘We have to  look after our own country first, look after our own people first.’

Senator Ó Murchú said he and Úna had met ‘the finest of people’ on their journey. He praised the massive contribution of others, thanking members of the  Comhaltas family, staff of Brú Ború and their friends.

Ardstiúrthóir, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and former member of Seanad Éireann.
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