Friday, February 17, 2006

Irish National Anthem in England?

There is small story in the news today about the British anti-terror laws and their impact on songs. The new laws are a little vague, especially where they ban the glofification of terror. The BBC describes this as

What is glorification?

The government says it wants to act against people who "praise or celebrate" terrorism in a way that makes people think they should emulate such attacks. Home Secretary Charles Clarke says people should not, for example, be allowed to glorify the 7 July attacks, or the bombers themselves, as it could encourage impressionable young men to think they should commit similar atrocities.

Sounds like a reasonable thing when you first think about it. Unfortunately its a little vague. What exactly will be counted as glorification and what wont. Of course there is the old problem of one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

Now questions are being raised about paramilitary songs in Northern Ireland. Songs that talk about "republican and loyalist songs referring to armalite assault weapons and wading knee-deep in Fenian blood." Again seems pretty reasonable, at first glance.

However I see a potential problem. The law is so vague its not clear what is illegal and what is ok. What happens with the Irish national anthem. Written in 1907 and adopted as the national anthem in 1926 it reflects the fight for Irish independence in a way that today could be seen as glorifying terror.
We'll sing a song, a soldier's song,
With cheering rousing chorus,
As round our blazing fires we throng,
The starry heavens o'er us;
Impatient for the coming fight,
And as we wait the morning's light,
Here in the silence of the night,
We'll chant a soldier's song.

Soldiers are we
whose lives are pledged to Ireland;
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave.
Sworn to be free,
No more our ancient sire land
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the gap of danger
In Erin's cause, come woe or weal
'Mid cannons' roar and rifles peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song.

In valley green, on towering crag,
Our fathers fought before us,
And conquered 'neath the same old flag
That's proudly floating o'er us.
We're children of a fighting race,
That never yet has known disgrace,
And as we march, the foe to face,
We'll chant a soldier's song.


Sons of the Gael! Men of the Pale!
The long watched day is breaking;
The serried ranks of Inisfail
Shall set the Tyrant quaking.
Our camp fires now are burning low;
See in the east a silv'ry glow,
Out yonder waits the Saxon foe,
So chant a soldier's song.

Could someone get an injunction against the playing of the Irish nation anthem using the anti-terror law as grounds for the injunction? What will happen on Saturday March 18th if during our last game of the 6 Nations some fire-brand in Twickenham strikes up the Irish anthem and the rest of the crowd joins in? Would the BBC have to cut off coverage? What happens if the Irish international soccer team visits England for an international or a testimonial and the players sing along to the anthem? Will the manager be forced into a few early substitutions while the original players wait in holding cells? What happens if the Irish President visits England and someone plays the anthem? Could she be arrested and charged with glorifying terror?

I'm all for anti-terror laws, but vague laws make bad laws.


Karlos said...

Intersting post, enjoyed the read. One thing that works in our favour or at least as far as the Irish Soccer Team is concerned, we'd have to get the lads to learn the words of Amhran Na bhFiann first before they could be charged with anything. Is there any mention of wheter humming a song might lead to prosecution!!

Declan said...

humming will probably just get you a minor beating :-)