Ireland's poet President and patron of the arts, Michael D Higgins turns 80 years old on April 18 and Ómós-Michael D @ 80 will see stars such as Van Morrison and De Dannan honor him with a streamed show on TG4.

When Michael D. (Daniel) Higgins ran for re-election as the president of Ireland for a second term he received the largest personal mandate in the history of the Irish Republic, and his second term began on November 11, 2018.  

Drawing on his skill sets as a respected politician, poet, sociologist, broadcaster, and long-time promoter of the arts, he distinguished himself as an articulate national spokesman in the wake of similar trendsetting presidents like Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese who raised the profile of the rather dour post for far too long. 

Watching him in action this past decade in office, it is clear he enjoys the ceremonial role placing him among the people of Ireland and its diaspora while also enjoying the platform to speak on the issues of the day with which he shows great familiarity and context. 

He still exudes an agile and creative presence as Ireland’s number one citizen, and he will turn 80 years of age on Sunday, April 18, a date which I am happy to say also marks my own entrance into this world.

Back in the mid-1990s, Higgins was in the Dail as a Labour Party TD when he served a stint as the minister for arts, culture, and Gaeltacht which were perfect portfolios given his own affinity for them and Irish heritage.  So, it seems only right that on the occasion of his 80th birthday a special television program called Ómós-Michael D @ 80 will be presented on TG4 on Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. Irish time (4:30 p.m. EDT) featuring some of Ireland’s finest poets, singers, musicians, thinkers, playwrights, and dancers. 

The musical talent is an assortment of veteran performers, some of whom have drawn support from Higgins over the years and some up-and-coming talent who have also benefitted from his long-standing encouragement of the traditional arts.

Topping the list is one of Ireland’s most iconic rock and roll stars in Belfast singer

Van Morrison.

Van Morrison.

, said to be making his first television appearance in 26 years.  Two Galwegians from the superstar trad band De Dannan, founder and fiddle virtuoso Frankie Gavin, and Mairtin O’Connor, one of Ireland’s most creative accordion players, will perform in the Galway Town Hall.   

Iarla O’Lionaird and Steve Cooney team up once again as they have many times in front of Higgins.  Laoise Kelly, the harpist from Achill Island in Co. Mayo was filmed performing in the gardens of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.

Iarla O’Lionaird.

Iarla O’Lionaird.

Reflecting a more contemporary artistic scene musically will be two young singers from musical families in Seamus O Flaharta from Connemara and Sibeal Ni Chasaide from County Meath.  Waterford melodeon player Emma Corbett will be playing for Dublin sean nos dancer and teacher Sibeal Davitt. 

Seamus O Flaharta and Sibeal Ni Chasaide.

Seamus O Flaharta and Sibeal Ni Chasaide.

And reflecting the more diverse nation that Ireland has become, a young Nigerian-born singer and rising star, Tolu Makay, raised in Tullamore who recently garnered a lot of interest looks with a cover of the Sawdoctors hit “N17” is included in the show.

Higgins has been steadfast in his support of justice and human rights in Ireland and around the world and looking out for those on the margins of society.  Travelers in Ireland may live on the fringe of that society but often are significant contributors to traditional Irish music, and so uilleann piper Paddy Keenan and singer Thomas McCarthy, who both have been honored with Gradam Ceoils by TG4 in the past, will represent a symbolic nod to the president’s championing those who need support from those in power.

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.

Interspersed with music entertainment will be some literary voices like Rita Ann Higgins, Doreann Ni Ghriofa, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride and theater legend Garry Hynes from the Druid Theatre founded in Galway.  The first female president of Ireland, Mary Robinson from Co. Mayo will offer reflections on the current occupant of Aras An Uachtaran.  Director general of TG4 Alan Esslemont will add to the plaudits for the long-time proponent of the Irish language who helped give TG4 its start.

Ómós-Michael D@ 80 is a production of Aniar TV directed by Feilimi O’Connor and produced by his brother Donal O’Connor and can be viewed on www.tg4.ie via a live stream and on-demand on the TG4 player.

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