Gary Dunne from Portlaoise has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London along with singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and community volunteer Maeve Heath.
The award was given by The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Rt. Hon. Vincent Keaveny in recognition of their outstanding work in the London Irish Centre, for which Gary is Creative Director, Ed is patron and Maeve is their longest serving volunteer.
Gary Dunne, from Woodlawn in Portlaoise, is a musician and Creative Producer. The 42 year-old is married to Swedish writer and editor Linnea Dunne, and they have two young sons, Eddie and Kalle.
He is the second-eldest of John and Denise Dunne’s four children, and did a degree in music and education.
He combined teaching and music until he left for London in 2002, where he became a full-time recording and touring musician.
During this time he played a house concert for Ed Sheeran’s 15th birthday where they became friends. Ed learned his signature loop pedal technique from Gary, who says was a major influence on his career.
When Gary realised that a lot of the homeless people in Camden were Irish, it led to him volunteering with The London Irish Centre. He subsequently became its Cultural Officer and now, its Creative Director.
As well as leading the cultural work of the LIC, Gary programmed the London St. Patrick’s Festival for seven years, produced 17 days of Irish culture for London Olympics 2012 and in 2019 he produced the globally broadcast Ceiliúradh concert in the Royal Albert Hall for the first State Visit by the President of Ireland to Britain.
Gary has been recognised as a leading international cultural programmer by the Royal Society of Arts, who nominated him for Fellowship in 2020, by The Irish Times, who selected him as one Ireland’s global ambassadors, and the Irish Independent who listed him in their Top 40 Under 40 list.
The Lord Mayor of the City of London, the Rt. Hon Vincent Keaveny said: “It means so much to me to pay tribute to Gary Dunne, Ed Sheeran and Maeve Heath, because their work with London Irish Centre – alongside their other impressive achievements – underlines the warm friendship and cultural exchange between the capital and Ireland.”
Creative Director of the London Irish Centre, Gary Dunne said: “I am honoured and humbled to receive the Freedom of the City of London.
“To do so with people I know and love makes it even more special.”
Gary’s Mother Denise Dunne said: “We have seen over the years how much Gary’s work for the Irish Community through the London Irish Centre has meant to him.
“It is a great honour for him to be awarded with the Freedom of the City of London. We are both delighted for him and feeling very proud.”
Local Poet and childhood friend of Gary’s, Laura Murphy said: “Gary has quietly but powerfully been inspiring, influencing and supporting so many of us from a very early age.
“His brilliant mind, beautiful heart, generous spirit and humble nature create magic wherever he goes.”
One of the City of London’s ancient traditions, the Freedom is believed to have begun in 1237 and is offered by the City of London Corporation to individuals as a way of paying tribute to their outstanding contribution to London or public life, or to celebrate a very significant achievement.
The ceremony was held at the Lord Mayor’s official residence, The Mansion House, in front of a group of family members, friends, and other invited guests. It also marked the first time the Irish language was spoken in a ceremony of its kind, making the day all the more special.