Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin funeral to be held in Co Clare on Monday

Pioneering musician had a ‘fearless sense of exploration’, says president

Founder of Irish World Academy of Music, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, was one of Ireland’s best-known composers. Video: Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA)

The funeral of the musician and composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin will take place in Kilrush, Co Clare on Monday, November 12th.

Ó Súilleabháin, who was emeritus professor of music at the University of Limerick and founder and director of its Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, died on Wednesday at Milford Care Centre "after a prolonged illness".

His funeral Mass will take place at St Senan’s Church in Kilrush, Co Clare at 12.30pm on Monday following a period of repose at the family home in Newport. A private cremation will take place in Shannon Crematorium after the Mass.

The family have requested donations in lieu of flowers which will be equally divided between the Dialysis Unit at University Hospital Limerick, St Brigid’s Ward at St Vincent’s Hospital and Milford Hospital, all of whom “provided great care and attention to Mícheál”.


President Michael D Higgins said during the week that Ó Súilleabháin, who was 67, had a "fearless sense of exploration". "His music and outstanding work will forever be enjoyed by countless people, celebrating his humour, his fearless sense of exploration and his talent for harmony, joy and mobilising the peerless power of music."

Ó Súilleabháin studied under Ireland's best-known composers, Seán Ó Riada and Aloys Fleischmann, at University College Cork in the 1970s before taking a PhD at Queen's University Belfast.

Sandra Joyce, the director of the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, said staff and students were profoundly saddened by his death. “Mícheál was the driving force behind the establishment and growth of the Irish World Academy since his appointment as chair of music, in 1994.” Those who worked with him were “swept along by his incredible energy, joie de vivre and vision”, she said.

His achievements include establishing unique programmes in music and dance, the equal honouring of performance and reflection, and the academy building, “which has been aptly christened the House of Light. Mícheál has been a major international figure in the arts, and has been particularly important as an educator, composer and performer.

“However, for many of us who knew him personally, it is his generosity of spirit, his unique turn of phrase, his thoughtfulness and his irrepressible energy which come to mind today. He is irreplaceable, but his legacy is assured.”

The University of Limerick, where Ó Súilleabháin was emeritus professor of music, paid tribute to his "series of pioneering solo albums, which repositioned his chosen instrument, the piano, at the heart of Irish traditional music. His richly evocative collaborations with Mel Mercier were a celebration of Ó Súilleabháin's flinty sense of humour and love of musical exploration." The professor "left a rich legacy through his own music, as well as the academy he founded, which attracted students from over 50 countries".

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times