Folk Music in Northern Ireland

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Northern Ireland is home to a wide variety of folk music. This type of music is often passed down from generation to generation and has been a part of the culture for centuries.

The Troubles

Folk music in Northern Ireland has been shaped by The Troubles, a conflict that raged from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. The Troubles left a deep and lasting mark on Northern Irish society, and folk music was no exception. Many folk songs were written about the conflict, and many more were adapted to reflect the changing political landscape.

The conflict in Northern Ireland

The conflict in Northern Ireland is often referred to as “The Troubles.” It began in the late 1960s and lasted for more than two decades. During that time, there was violence between Catholic and Protestant groups as well as between the British security forces and various Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups. More than 3,600 people were killed and tens of thousands more were injured.

The Troubles began to come to an end in the early 1990s with a series of peace agreements. The most important of these was the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. This led to a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland which includes both Catholic and Protestant representatives.

Despite the peace process, violence has continued on a smaller scale. There have been sporadic attacks by dissident paramilitary groups, as well as a rise in hate crimes against minorities, particularly immigrants from Eastern Europe.

The music of the Troubles

The music of the Troubles refers to the musical tradition of Northern Ireland during the period of violent conflict known as the Troubles (1968–1998). The Troubles saw a marked increase in the recording and release of folk, trad, rock, and pop music in Ireland, as well as a renewed interest in the traditional music of Ireland.

During the 1970s and 1980s, many folk and traditional musicians were reluctant to publicly identify themselves as such for fear of reprisals from either side in the conflict. As a result, much of the music of the Troubles was anonymous or published under pseudonyms. In recent years, however, many musicians have been more willing to openly identify themselves as Irish or Northern Irish and to discuss their experiences during the Troubles.

Among the most popular folk musicians of the Troubles were Liam Clancy, Dominic Behan, Paddy Reilly, Mary Black, Christy Moore, Paul Brady, Van Morrison, and Damien Dempsey. Traditional Irish music was also popularized by groups such as Planxty, The Chieftains, The Dubliners, and The Pogues. Rock bands such as U2 and Simple Minds also achieved international success during this period.

The Revival

In the late 1960s, a revival of traditional Irish music began in Northern Ireland. This was spearheaded by groups like The Dubliners and The Chieftains, who began to popularize the music outside of Ireland. This revival led to a renewed interest in folk music within Ireland, and helped to preserve the traditional music of the country.

The Celtic Tiger

The Celtic Tiger was a period of economic growth in Ireland that began in the 1990s and continued into the early 2000s. The Irish economy had been stagnant for much of the previous two decades, but the Celtic Tiger saw it experience a period of rapid growth, led by strong exports and foreign investment. The music scene also flourished during this time, with traditional Irish bands finding international success.

The Celtic Tiger came to an end in 2008, when the global financial crisis hit Ireland particularly hard. The music scene was also affected, with many traditional bands losing their record deals and having to tour less. Despite this, the Celtic Tiger period left a lasting legacy on Irish music, and the country continues to produce many talented musicians.

The new wave of folk music

In recent years, there has been a new wave of folk music in Northern Ireland. This revival has seen a resurgence in traditional music and song, as well as the emergence of new artists who are bringing a fresh take on the genre.

The new wave of folk music in Northern Ireland is being led by a new generation of artists who are drawing on the rich tradition of Irish music and song, while also injecting their own unique style and energy into their work. This is resulting in a vibrant and exciting folk scene that is attracting attention from all over the world.

Some of the leading lights of this new wave of folk music in Northern Ireland include Cormac Byrne, Daoirí Farrell, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, nullCatherine McGrath, Robyn Goshawk, Téada and The Eskies. These artists are not only helping to keep traditional Irish music alive, but they are also bringing it to new audiences through their inventive and exciting take on the genre.

If you’re interested in experiencing the new wave of folk music in Northern Ireland, there are plenty of ways to do so. You can catch one of the many live performances that take place across the country every week, or you can check out some of the excellent recordings that have been made by these artists in recent years. Whichever way you choose to enjoy it, this is an exciting and invigorating time for folk music in Northern Ireland.


It is generally accepted that folk music in Northern Ireland has its origins in the centuries before the Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600s. Irish music at that time was probably a mixture of Ancient Irish, Scottish and English traditions, which had been brought to the country by settlers and invaders.

The popularity of folk music

Folk music has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with many people now enjoying listening to and playing this type of music. There are a number of reasons for this increased interest, including the fact that folk music is seen as being more authentic and down-to-earth than other genres. In addition, folk music often has a strong connection to the local community and can be used to promote important cultural values.

Northern Ireland is home to a rich tradition of folk music, which has been passed down through the generations. This music often includes elements of Celtic and Gaelic culture, as well as influences from other parts of the world. Folk music in Northern Ireland is sometimes referred to as ‘traditional’ or ‘roots’ music, and it is enjoyed by people of all ages.

If you’re interested in discovering more about Northern Ireland’s folk music scene, there are a number of great resources available online. You can also find out about upcoming events and festivals by checking out the websites of local tourist boards or searching for ‘folk music Northern Ireland’ online.

The future of folk music

Folk music in Northern Ireland has seen a significant resurgence in popularity in recent years. This is due in large part to the success of television shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Outlander”, which have both featured traditional Irish music prominently.

This renewed interest has led to an increase in funding for folk music initiatives and a greater focus on promoting and preserving the tradition. The future of folk music in Northern Ireland looks bright, with a new generation of singers and players taking up the torch and carrying it into the 21st century.

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