CHRISTY Moore’s Sunday night concert in aid of the Cork Life Centre sold out in minutes, so it was no surprise to see Cork Opera House packed.
The atmosphere was electric, as befitted a gig by one of Ireland’s best-loved troubadours on a rare appearance at the Opera House, but what made the evening magical was a sense of shared love for the Life Centre.
The centre every year offers one-to-one tuition up to Leaving Cert to 55 young people failed by mainstream education, and since it opened in 2000 it has helped over 1,000 students.
In recent years it has been locked in as-yet unresolved disagreement with the Department of Education about payment of teachers, with the centre’s director battling on despite a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Sunday night’s fundraiser was billed “A Tribute to Don O’Leary” and Moore debuted his new song “Why I Love Cork”, dedicating it to Don.
The two men first met in the late 1970s in Portlaoise Prison, where the Corkman was serving a five-year sentence for treason, jailed for possession of Sinn Féin election posters.
Reunited earlier this year by their mutual friends James Leonard and Timmy Long of The Two Norries Podcast, Christy immediately offered to help the Life Centre.
“I’ve the highest of regard for Don, and his work in the Cork Life Centre, and I just thought it would be a lovely thing to do a concert and honour him,” the folk legend toldbefore Sunday night’s concert.
Always socially conscious, he couldn’t resist a dig against the Department of Education.
“I think bureaucracy is the fly in the ointment there, I think they can’t handle the fact that the Life Centre is a unique process, and they can’t control it. If they controlled it, it wouldn’t work,” he said.
Don O’Leary said he felt hugely honoured that Christy Moore would come and raise funds for the Life Centre.
“I will never be able to thank him for what he’s done with this concert, for giving us a lift, he’s an amazing man, and he always has been.”