UNESCO Recognition for Uilleann Piping

 Worldwide recognition for Irish Pipes,

“The Sound of Ireland”, in new accolade from UNESCO


The UNESCO twelfth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, in the Republic of Korea’s Jeju island has ratified its decision to include Uilleann Piping on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This important global accolade reflects heritage cultural practices that are considered to enrich all of humanity. UNESCO has now agreed that Irish Uilleann Piping – often referred to as “The Sound of Ireland” – merits this recognition. As a result, the distinctive Irish musical art-form joins such other cultural expressions as the Argentinian Tango, the Armenian Duduk and its music, and the Baul songs of Bangladesh.

Older than Guinness, the Uilleann Pipes descend from an instrument introduced in the 1740’s and were known as “The Irish Pipes”. A sophisticated instrument that provides more musical possibilities than any other type of bagpipe due to three different streams of sound, Uilleann Piping declined in the 19th century and was successfully revived in the 20th century.

Now in 2017, it’s a thriving art form in both Ireland and worldwide where it is celebrated in 50 countries and on six continents in places as diverse as Cuba, Finland, Australia, Argentina and Germany. There are more than three thousand Uilleann Pipers throughout the world, playing Irish music on this Irish instrument in dedicated clubs throughout Europe and in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Na Píobairí Uilleann (, the body dedicated to access, education, performance and preservation of Uilleann Piping and pipemaking, has announced free access to its online learning and performance portal in addition to a fascinating archive celebrating a rich cultural history

The UNESCO announcement follows the Irish Government’s nomination of Uilleann Piping to the List.  Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD said: “Today’s decision is testament to the community of Uilleann Pipers across the country who, since the 1960s, have succeeded in their mission to stop the decline in the playing and making of the uilleann pipes. The success today is a real community effort from Na Píobairí Uilleann, Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, the Armagh Pipers Club, and other organisations and individuals who have contributed to the resurgence of interest in Uilleann Piping, in Ireland and around the world.”

“Ar an lá stairiúil seo, cuimhnímís ar na píobairí iomráiteacha a choinnigh an traidisiún seo beo – leithéidí Eamonn Ceannt, Willie Clancy, Seamus Ennis agus daoine nach iad. Is cinnte go mbeadh siad bródúil inniu as a gcuid oibre thar na blianta.”

Gay McKeon CEO of Na Píobairí Uilleann ( and himself a celebrated player said: “Today is a global milestone for Uilleann Piping and shines a world-wide spotlight on The Irish Pipes. From movies to TV and now video games, there are new opportunities opening up all the time that showcase the versatility of the instrument and its distinctive sound.

We thank supporters for their enthusiasm and would encourage people to discover the pleasure of playing and attending performances at home and abroad.

“Na Píobairí Uilleann would like to thank the Irish Government for its UNESCO nomination and those officials of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht who accepted the case that was made for the nomination of Uilleann Piping, and who energetically promoted that cause. Also, the Arts Council /An Chomhairle Ealaoin have been an invaluable source of support throughout the process and in our daily work.

Finally, we would like to thank the many groups and individual practitioners in the world of Uilleann Piping who support us – it’s an inspiring world-wide, community devoted to this wonderful music.”

You can view the UNESCO proceedings here:

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