INTERVIEW: Louth-born trad musician Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin looks back on her career

Pádraigín will receive a special award at TG4's Traditional Irish Music Awards next Sunday

Tia Clarke


Tia Clarke


IDDT musician Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

Louth-born musician Pádraigín Ní  Uallacháin,  is due to receive the 2018 Special Contribution Award as part of TG4’s traditional Irish music Awards, Gradam Ceoil for her outstanding contributions to the artform.

During her music career, Pádraigín has recorded nine albums of traditional Irish songs, children’s songs, lullabies and her own acclaimed compositions. She is also an accomplished broadcaster and singer in residence at Queen’s University Belfast.

Ahead of her performance at the award ceremony in Belfast's Waterfront Hall on February 4, the multi-talented scholar, composer and performer spoke to The Dundalk Democrat.

Amongst other things, Pádraigín told The Democrat about her thrill at being hono

ured at TG4's Traditional Irish Music Awards, why Co. Louth should be proud of its rich traditional music heritage and, why she thinks the fact she's succeeded as a professional musician performing in  Irish  language is “nothing short of a miracle”.

The Oriel Arts website 

“I'm absolutely thrilled about the award. My own work has focused on Co. Louth's rich history of traditional music and song, and I hope the award will help to put a spotlight on that,” Pádraigín told The Dundalk Democrat.

In fact,  Pádraigín,  has devoted the last three years to her most ambitious project to date – The trad music legend first began work on the website back in 2015, when she first received funding from The Arts Council of Ireland.

The website takes its name from the ancient Irish kingdom of Oriel, that covered parts of counties of Armagh, Monaghan, Louth, Fermanagh, Derry, and Tyrone. Ní Uallacháin decided to create the website to bring the hidden traditional music of these areas, and Louth and Armagh in particular, to the public's attention.

In her comprehensive research Pádraigín has brought to life over 150 pages and 40 performance videos of traditional arts, including music, song, and story, from contemporary musicians across Oriel dating back to the beginning of the 1800's.

However, despite a large amount of research and material on the website, it doesn't feel overly academic. When creating Oriel Arts, Pádraigín says that it was important to her to ensure that the website was “accessible for everyone”.

A Hidden Ulster was published in 2003

When asked what makes the areas of Louth and Armagh so interesting in terms of traditional music, Pádraigín explained: “Oriel is one of the richest areas, in terms of traditional music, in the whole country. We often look to counties in the west of Ireland for the best traditional music, but Oriel was one of the main areas.”

And whilst the Gradam Ceoil Special Contribution Award will look back on her entire career since she started recording music back in 1999, Ní Uallacháin hopes that it will shine a light on her most recent “researching and renewing” project, Oriel Arts.

Ní Uallacháin said: “The renewal of the Oriel traditions through the website is something I am very proud of. It was received exceptionally well.

“Over the last three years, I did the work of a university research team, alone. The award will be a celebration of all of this work I've done and hopefully bring attention to”

When asked by The Dundalk Democrat to recall other notable moments in her successful career, Pádraigín thought for a moment before replying: “To have succeeded at living as a professional musician, performing in the Irish language, is nothing short of a miracle.”


Tickets for the TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2018 awards are priced at £25 (approx. €28) and are available from or by phone on +44(0)2890 334455. The concert will be broadcast live on TG4 from 9:30pm.

To find out more, visit or connect with Gradam Ceoil on Facebook or Twitter.