Galway’s new busking bylaws ‘outlaw’ champion Sean-nós dancer

Sean Nós dancer Emma O'Sullivan

Galway City Tribune – One of Galway’s most-loved street performers fears the city will become a busking ghost town if the new bylaws, passed this week by the City Council, are not reversed.

All-Ireland champion Sean-nós dancer, Emma O’Sullivan says the new daytime restrictions on circle acts and a ban on amplification – which come into effect after this Summer – will drive buskers away from Galway. They will also deter international buskers from visiting, she warns.

The Connemara native wows audiences with daily Irish dancing sets outside Tigh Cóilí and her images and videos are regularly used in promotional material for Galway as a cultural destination. Her performances, in their current guise, will be banned under the new bylaws.

The use of battery-powered background music gives her act reliability. Ms O’Sullivan says hiring musicians – possibly five would be needed – to replace the backing track she uses now, is “not practicable and not viable”.

“Every time a child comes up and grabs my hand and has a dance with me – that’s audience participation. What I do has elements of dance, which is a circle act, which is banned until 6pm.”

Acts like Ms O’Sullivan’s popular dance set will be banned from the streets during the day: A) because she uses a backing track, which is amplified and B) because her performance sometimes includes audience participation, which is a ‘no-no’ under the ban on circle acts.

The issue divided opinion at a Council meeting this week – nine councillors voted in favour, nine voted against, and it was carried on the casting vote of the Mayor, Pearce Flannery (FG).

Mayor Flannery said he was a musician who had busked for five years; and he regularly accompanies his teenage son when he busks on the streets of Galway to earn pocket money. He said: “We’re not banning anything. We’re not outlawing anything.”
For extensive coverage of the bylaws discussion and how each councillor voted,, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.