- 11 Oct 21
Tributes have been pouring in as a response to the news of the passing of Tony McMahon, an iconic Irish musician and RTÉ broadcaster. He died on October 8 at age 82.
McMahon was best known for being an accordion player as well as a broadcaster for RTÉ. He recorded solo music and collaborations and presented and produced programmes such as The Pure Drop and The Green Linnet.
His deep commitment to the Irish language and traditional music was clear, and in 2019, he received a special honour at Miltown Malbay's Willie Clancy Week. Five years prior, in 2014, he had revealed his Parkinson's disease diagnosis. At that time, he explained how his music was connected to "his love for the Irish language."
"My advice to the wonderful young players who are up and coming today is to listen out for the love we all have in our arteries… for the Irish language, and to let that influence our music,” he had said.
"Tony brought to performance – in so many forms, places and venues – the talent of a maestro," wrote Higgins. "To hear him play Port Na bPúcai, for example, was to feel transported into another world. His commitment to traditional music and to the friendship of his fellow musicians was full of integrity."
Hot Press editor Niall Stokes also paid tribute to McMahon, calling him "one of a kind."
“He was a passionate advocate for Irish traditional music and for the Irish language," said Stokes. "He was steeped in the culture, growing up in a musical family in Co. Clare, and learning the accordion from an early age. He was a fine musician, but also a powerfully committed activist, who made the cause his life’s work, whether in RTÉ as a producer and presenter or in those special places where sessions take place all over the country. He will be sadly missed by those who knew and loved him."
Catherine Martin, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, wrote on Twitter that she was "deeply saddened" by the news, saying: "He devoted his life to traditional music and was a key figure in bringing it to the wider audience it enjoys today."
I am greatly saddened to hear of the death of Tony McMahon. He devoted his life to traditional music and was a key figure in bringing it to the wider audience it enjoys today. My deepest sympathies to his family, many friends and fellow musicians. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam. https://t.co/5mjLdX4P7R
— Catherine Martin TD (@cathmartingreen) October 9, 2021
The chair of IMRO, Eleanor McEvoy, said that McMahon was “truly great musician with a deep passion for Irish traditional music.”
Fellow musician and fiddler Martin Hayes said: "For me he will always be one of the truly great musicians of all time. He encouraged and inspired me from a very young age. Traditional Irish music has lost a giant figure."
Other members of the RTÉ community have also paid their respects, including director general Dee Forbes and head of RTÉ Radio 1 Peter Woods.
“Tony McMahon was an icon among Irish musicians," said Forbes. "His radio series The Long Note placed traditional music in a wider, social context, and was required listening in an era when commercial recordings were rare. Tony introduced his audience to a community of musicians, both at home and abroad, and gave airtime to a generation of younger musicians.”
“As a producer, Tony McMahon was an innovator," explained Woods. "He placed an emphasis on individual musicians, their contribution to the tradition and their artistic intent. He was an important figure in RTÉ and nationally for the recognition and context his programme making gave to those musicians. For those who worked with him he was a sounding post. His musical values remained constant and challenging. He made space. In his programmes the music came first. Of Tony McMahon it can definitely be said, Ní bheid a leithéid ann arís.”
Kieran Hanrahan, the RTÉ host of Céilí House, called McMahon an "iconic figure in traditional music" and "beautiful stylist on the accordion."
“As presenter/producer in RTE he provided a national platform for many musicians and singers," added Hanrahan. "Condolences to his family and friends. Rest in peace Tony.”
On Twitter, author and RTÉ broadcaster John Creedon wrote: "Saddened to hear Tony McMahon has left the stage. He had a unique sound and was always his own man. Fond memories of seeing Tony play. My sympathies to those who knew him best."
See more tributes for McMahon below:
Very sorry this evening to hear of the death of Tony McMahon. He told me perfection was a box of cornflakes. I made this programme about - and with him. It was my cut, the way these things work.... but it couldn't have been made without him.https://t.co/GFYSKmV2tD
— Peter Woods (@MacCoillte) October 8, 2021
RIP Tony McMahon
— Luke O’Riordan (@luke_oriordan) October 9, 2021
RIP to the inestimable, genius, otherwordly talent, Maestro Tony McMahon. "In Knocknagree" is one of the greatest ever Irish albums and The Green Linnet one of greatest ever series. And then there's your definitive interpretation of Port na bPúcaí. A true legend. x https://t.co/6QMkAAKDaL
— Joe Chester (@JoeChester_) October 8, 2021
Very sorry to hear of the death of Tony McMahon. A good trade union colleague in RTE - and such an exceptional musical talent. RIP https://t.co/0hSxi7V3f4
— Alex White (@AlexWhiteSC) October 10, 2021