I came home from Scotland on Tuesday 25th November and was informed about the controversy that blew up regarding John Delaney's rendition of one of my songs, The Ballad of Joe McDonnell. A journalist in the Irish Times, Emmet Malone, who from his writing was obviously ignorant to the song and it’s meaning, castigated and objected to John Delaney’s singing of an IRA Rebel song, as he called it, by someone who holds a position as head of the FAI. I believe that an Irish man, regardless of his position, has a right to sing a song of his choice at a private sing song in a pub with his friends without harassment from an ill-informed journalist who obviously did not know the song nor did he take time to research it before he wrote the article. If he did listen before he put pen to paper he would have heard a great song telling the story of a young man born in Belfast who had struggled against a bigoted system. He tried to make a life for himself and his family against all odds. He was interned without crime or trial on two occasions, first on the prison ship, the Maidstone, then in Long Kesh. He was arrested with Bobby Sands for possession of a firearm found in the glove compartment of their car, convicted and imprisoned for fourteen years. Many believed the gun was planted as they were marked men.
Now I believe by the Irish Times journalist’s attack against John Delaney singing this song, it was an attack on our freedom of speech. The sing song at gatherings in Ireland is a great Irish tradition and has been around for generations. When friends get together in celebration, or even without reason, a sing song is likely to erupt, all will join in and sing their party piece. The journalist called this song an IRA song, it never mentioned the IRA, he called it a rebel song, it never mentioned rebellion, it’s a song about Joe McDonnell’s love of his Wife and Family, his City, his Friends and his Country. No man could have more love than to lay down his life for his friends.
I called the Joe Duffy show on RTE radio on my arrival home and defended the rights of free speech and John’s right to sing a song without harassment. I pointed out that he would not be so vocal if a head of English FA sang Land of Hope and Glory or Rule Britannia or a head of the Scottish FA sang Flower of Scotland. I would defend their right to do so. Many joined the discussion but you would be surprised how many were blinded by ignorance of the meaning behind the song and did not bother to listen to the song words. Some readily admitted on air that they had never heard the song, however, this did not stop RTE affording them airtime to give their opinion on a song they had never heard! Joe Duffy read the selective words to me as if I as the writer did not know them already, he read words out of context that he thought would show the song in a particular light. They then brought on a guy who has a history of castigating everything Irish, his name is Tom Carew. He used ridiculous arguments to blame or connect Joe McDonnell to crimes he or none of the Hunger strikers had anything to do with. These are the same people who hate all things Irish and will oppose and object to celebrations of our great heroes of 1916.
The people of Ireland indeed spoke back in huge numbers with The Ballad of Joe McDonnell rocketing into the download charts, the song on YouTube got over three million hits. Where is the same Irish Times journalist now, his paper did not take the time to report those facts. I’m just wondering if there are any fair journalists out there that are willing to defend John Delaney's right to sing a song of his choice or are all of our press tainted by West Britism and afraid of losing their jobs?
Irish folk song lyrics, chords and a whole lot more