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Songs That Shall Not Be Sung, Those That Shall Not Be Named

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

14 November 2022

The Irish women's football team celebrate qualifying for a major tournament for the first time.

A female Irish football team, who fortunately had ne’er a man dressed as a woman playing for them, beat Scotland 1-0 and qualified for the World Cup.  It should have been a cause for celebration.  Well, it was, but the celebration turned out to be controversial to the great and good.  The players sang Celtic Symphony in the dressing room.(1)  The song was written by The Wolfe Tones to celebrate the centenary of Celtic F.C. and the lyrics indicate as much.  However, it also includes the refrain Ooh Aah, Up the ‘RA.

This upset the great and good.  Wee Fenian brats should know their place and celebrate only by singing approved songs.  Having beaten Scotland they should have sung the British National Anthem, A.K.A God Save the King which once included the following choice lyrics about Scotland.

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.

That this verse began its history as a prayer by army chaplains, during the Jacobite rebellions tells you everything you need to know about it.  Though that verse was quietly dropped, the Brit Anthem being a moveable feast, like an epic poem you can pick and choose verses from when you put it to music.  Though it still talks of “scattering enemies”.

The Brits and the West Brits objected strongly to what these young women had done.  They didn’t know their place and how to bow to their betters.  Even that infamous right-wing extremist, John Taylor, now known as Lord Kilcooney objected to it.(2)  Kilcooney is a bigot, once referring to Leo Varadkar as the Indian.  His favourite song, also once included these perfectly apt lyrics for a sectarian bigot like him.

From foreign slavery,
Priests and their knavery,
And Popish Reverie,
God save us all.

Even right-wing Catholics such as David Quinn got in on the act.  He tried to compare the IRA, and Ireland’s fight against British Imperialism to Al Qaeda.  He took a break from complaining about the child abusers of the Catholic Church not getting help to pay their heating bills this winter(3) (they don’t pay taxes and never coughed up their share of the meagre abuse redress scheme.) He wondered out loud “is there a polite, jokey, inoffensive way to say 'Up Al Qaeda'?”(4) And of course there is, it is that hymn Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the Highest).  Not quite the same as the Islamic phrase There is no God but God, but in Al Qaeda’s favour, they are a long way off matching the British Empire’s murder tally. In fact, if we only include Muslim victims of the Empire, it would take centuries to even come close.

The message is Croppies Lie Down.(5) Know your place and don’t upset the glorious beneficent British Empire.  The upshot of this is, that the song has once again roared up the charts and reached Number One, as did the song Come Out Ye Black and Tans(6) when that was criticised a few years ago.  This is a reflection of popular nationalist sentiment.  Yes, the IRA has done many things that should be criticised, even condemned.  But existing and fighting against the British per se, was not one of them.  Those who condemned the young women did so, not out of some concern for civilian victims of IRA bombings, but because they just don’t believe in standing up to the British, ever, over anything at all. In 1982, Garret Fitzgerald, the ardent critic of the IRA nearly had a fit when the Irish government failed to support Margaret Thatcher’s campaign in the Malvinas.  His heir Leo Varadkar wouldn’t worry about that, the consensus in the Dáil (Irish parliament) is that the British and the US can invade where ever they like and the Irish government will say nothing as it is currently pushing us closer into joining NATO and Sinn Féin have floated the idea of a united Ireland within the British Commonwealth, which will eventually become a united Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

The IRA was defeated.  The Brits stalled their military campaign and infiltrated them to such a degree that even republicans wonder who was who and conspiracy theories abound about the worst IRA actions and the shadowy hand of British intelligence.  Sinn Féin surrendered politically a long time before they signed the Good Friday Agreement, which was the icing on the cake.  We then got all sorts of smoke and mirrors around such nonsense as “parity of esteem”, Irish language rights etc.  None of this came to pass.  The British and the Unionists did not play ball, and now any representation of Irish culture, nationalism or the past struggle is anathema and not to be tolerated.  Sinn Féin asked for a section of the prison H-Blocks, where the hunger strikes took place, to be preserved as a museum: not on.   When they commemorate IRA volunteers (less each time) they are ritually denounced by those who see no problem with mass slaughter.  So, what was Sinn Féin’s answer? They decided that they too would celebrate mass murder in the hope the unionists would give some recognition to them.  Sinn Féin regularly attend events to mark the First World War and recently Michelle O’ Neill laid a wreath at the Cenotaph to commemorate the Battle of the Somme(7) i.e. the mass slaughter of British and German working-class youths in a war between two countries whose heads of state were inbred cousins.

The casualties from the Battle of the Somme were colossal.  Allied casualties were 623,907, of which some 350,000 were British.  There were a further 465,000 to 600,000 German casualties.  All of this was in the name of the most ignoble, savage ideal ever: Empire.  That the King and Kaiser were cousins, says it all.  The worst IRA atrocity just doesn’t make the grade when compared to the slaughter of just one battle in WWI.  The official reason for the war was the defence of Little Belgium, a country whose king had murdered 10 million Africans in Congo, something the then British diplomat and future Irish revolutionary Roger Casement had exposed.  Ooh Ah Up The ‘Ra doesn’t sound that offensive now, does it?

One commentator, Joe Brolly, whose family background is markedly republican joked on Twitter.

Breaking: GAA to apologise to the British for naming our most prestigious trophy the Sam Maguire cup. Sam, a Protestant, was an Irish Republican terrorist who managed Michael Collins team of assassins in London.(8)
Except, it is not really a joke, is it.  GAA football fields have been mired in controversy over the years as they are frequently named after IRA members, from the early part of the 20th Century and in some cases more recent volunteers.  In some cases, they are just named after victims of state sponsored terrorism (not a phrase you will hear often anymore).  Unionists have frequently complained about this, demanding that the names be removed.  Not even Roger Casement escapes their wrath.  In 2013 the right-wing unionist Belfast Telegraph stated that:
If we are to build a truly shared future then we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. Unless the GAA recognise the hurt caused by the naming of competitions, grounds and clubs after terrorists, that shared future will still remain tantalisingly out of reach.(9)
When they say shared, they mean Croppies Lie Down. We shall share Empire and all it did and stands for, but not those who fought against it.  Casement was not the only problematic figure for unionists either.  Dungiven GAA Hurling club was named after former Gaelic Football player and INLA volunteer Kevin Lynch, who died on hunger strike in 1981.   A controversy blew up about this, many years after it happened.  The West Brit newspaper The Irish Times, was not to be outdone by the Unionists.
This [the GAA]is an organisation with clubs named after Pádraig Pearse, Liam Mellows, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, Austin Stack and Kevin Barry among others. They too were men who decided their political beliefs were worth killing for. There are those who will argue that naming a club after Kevin Lynch simply follows a GAA tradition of commemorating supposed martyred dead in the fight for Irish freedom. And they have a point.

Certainly the comfortable old consolation about War of Independence fanatics having had an electoral mandate doesn’t feel nearly as snug now that the whiff of cordite from more modern fanatics appears to be becoming more socially and politically tolerable.(10)

What the West Brits wanted was the rewriting of Irish history and any cultural reference to opposition to be erased.  This has been the case all along.  It is not for nothing that the main street in Dublin is named after the arch Catholic sectarian Daniel O’Connell, who was not opposed to imperialism, just what he saw as Protestant godlessness, but was a pacifist and a loyal Irish subject of the British.  He is the ideal figure of the Irish state, not those who rebelled against the British. Personally, I look forward to the day, when a truly divisive sectarian figure in Irish history is toppled from his ugly but imposing pedestal at the top of O’Connell St.

A side issue that arose in recent weeks was the official portrait of Danny Baker former Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast.  He is shown in profile and on his desk, there is all sorts of stuff, photos and in the background a small portrait of the hunger striker Bobby Sands.  Baker’s portrait will now be on display in City Hall.  Unionist fury did not wait, with victims of the IRA being wheeled out to have their say.  How dare these uppity Fenians do that! is the cry as Queen Victoria’s statue sits outside City Hall.  She is the acceptable face of violence, Sands and all those who resisted the British Empire are not.

There is another song by The Wolfe Tones, whose chorus is almost a reply to the Brits, Unionists and West Brits in the Irish government.  You could be forgiven for thinking it was written as a response.  The song is called Joe McDonnell, and is about an IRA hunger striker who died in 1981 and whose funeral was brutally attacked by the RUC and the British army. It is important to remember that the 1981 hunger strike was about whether the IRA prisoners were political prisoners or just common criminals.

And you dare to call me a terrorist
As you look down your gun
When I think of all the deeds you have done
You have plundered many nations
Divided many lands
You have terrorised their peoples
You rule with an iron hand
And you brought this reign of terror to my land.

It is still sung in republican clubs and drinking halls throughout Ireland, but the politics of the song are not held aloft by Sinn Féin.  They gladly lay wreaths to commemorate those who died for the British Empire, they no longer complain about conquered lands.  They stretch out their hands to the British state and the most reactionary elements in the Protestant community.  They seek to placate loyalist reactionaries; they talk of the Empire as an identity.  Despite all their blathering about the progressive protestant tradition which stretches from Wolfe Tone (after which the group is named) to the Protestants who opposed the pogroms in 1969 and beyond, they have nothing to say to working class Protestants.  In fact, they can’t.  The Good Friday Agreement reduces politics to an identity.  Talking of socialism or even a united Ireland is an attack on that identity.  And King Chuck’s loyal subjects in Ireland are the original Wokerati, even predating Zionists.

They have a well-oiled machinery they can crank up every time they wish to complain about how they are… wait for it… Offended!  The offence taken by them for Catholics demanding equal voting rights, an end to discrimination etc. trumps material reality.  Like the Wokerati, they have hollowed out any reference to politics in any and all discussions and it is identity and offence that rule the roost.

This, as is the case with their more trendy Woke brethren, can only take place after defeats;  in one case that of the nationalist population, and Sinn Féin and the IRA and on the other hand with our woke “friends”, the workers movement and feminism.

We should be proud of the women’s football team for winning against Scotland and reminding us through the furore over the song that there is such a thing as Empire, West Brits and Reaction and some people in Ireland and in other countries fought against that, some of them, including the IRA with very flawed methods.  But they fought and that is nothing to be ashamed of.


(1)   The Wolfe Tones version of the son can be heard here and the women singing

(2)  See

(3)  See

(4)  See

(5)  Croppies Lie Down is a sectarian written in 1798 and song sung by Loyalists.  The reference to Croppies come from the practice of Irish revolutionaries in the late 1790s who emulated their French counterparts in wearing the hair short.  Though the leadership of this revolutionary movement was almost exclusively Protestant, the term Croppies nowadays refers to exclusively to Catholics.

(6)  An Irish ballad written by Dominic Behan, the term refers to the colours of the uniforms worn by irregular British troops in Ireland 1918-1921.

(7)  MaCauley, C. (01/07/2022) Michelle O’Neill lays wreath for Battle of Somme Anniversary

(8)  See

(9)  Dudgeon, J. (23/10/2013) ‘Naming of GAA clubs and grounds after controversial republicans is not a new phenomenon

(10)  O’ Connor, B (28/10/2013) Naming of clubs after fanatics shouldn’t be tolerated by the GAA

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