- 30 Jul 20
Today, we received the sad news that Colm Ó Briain, former Director of the Arts Council and special adviser to President Michael D. Higgins, when he was Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has died.
“It is with the greatest sadness that I have learned of the passing of Colm Ó Briain,” President Michael D. Higgins said today on learning of the death of the former Director of the Arts Council. Colm Ó Briain was also a special adviser to the President, when he was the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht – the first politician to have full Ministerial responsibility for the arts in Ireland.
“Colm Ó Briain was an adviser to me in the period 1993-1997 when I served as Minister for the Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht, and a comrade when he served as General Secretary of the Labour Party of which I was Chairman,” the President said. "His immense support to me as Minister however, was just one part of a long and distinguished service to the arts and arts education in Ireland, and on an all-island basis.
“A wonderful director, his sense of the importance of drama and theatre was deep and impressive. He was associated with so many of the founding moments and movements of the arts, including the Project Arts Centre. He served as a distinguished Director of the Arts Council.
“Colm was associated with all the special reports prepared during my time as Minister and they were all informed by his experience, his enthusiasm, and an unwavering commitment to practitioners and to the arts. His contribution to the Department covered every aspect of what was a new and exciting Department.
“I will miss him deeply as a colleague and a friend. To Muireann and his daughters Seóna and Aisling, Sabina and I send our deepest sympathies.
“He will be deeply missed by so many at what is such a crucial time for the arts.”
These are sentiments with which Hot Press can only concur.
“Colm Ó Briain was a towering figure in the arts in Ireland,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “He was one of a hugely distinguished family whose overall contribution to culture in Ireland has been – and continues to be – immense. I was very fortunate to work closely with his brother Garry in different musical adventures along the road and got to know all of the members of the family – and so I am very aware of how talented and dedicated the Ó Briains tend to be.
"Colm was a high achiever in every way and won the respect of people across the spectrum of the arts. I was lucky enough also to have worked with Colm in a show in the Peacock Theatre and saw first-hand how meticulous, dedicated and demanding he was, all in a good way. He would never ask of someone else anything that he would not do himself. He gave a huge amount as Director of the Arts Council and subsequently as a special adviser to the President when Michael D. was Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
"In a week when an Irish production of Normal People was nominated for four Emmy Awards, it is worth remembering that many of the initiatives which have helped to lift the Irish film and audio visual industry onto another level were forged originally in that transformative era. Colm Ó Briain worked closely with Michael D. as Minister, in ensuring that all of the technicalities were carefully considered and covered.
“The truth is that people involved in film in Ireland owe a lot to Colm Ó Briain. Indeed, so does anyone who loves the arts: he helped to turn Ireland into a much more artist-friendly place. Things are inordinately tough for artists, musicians, theatre people and film makers now in the terrible context of Covid-19 and its impact. But hopefully the vision, which Colm had, of improving the lot of artists in Ireland, can be regained in its entirety.”
At Hot Press, we extend our very best wishes to the friends and family of Colm O Briain. RIP.