The curious case of Paddy and the anthem


So Paddy Barnes is in the spotlight again – and not for a good reason. Or at least that’s how some would have us see it. Wee Paddy, instead of doing the right thing and staring straight ahead while getting a bit moist-eyed during the playing of Danny Boy, chose to lean in to the nearest person to him and whisper “That’s not my anthem!”. Outrage perturbation. Has the man no sense of dignity? Of loyalty? How could he foul such a golden moment with his parochialism?

I watched a documentary about Danny Boy  the other night and while it was better than watching a documentary on  Ireland’s Call, it wasn’t much better. Oozing with schmaltz and general paddywhackery. The fact is, Danny Boy has a splendid tune – The Londonderry Air –  and lyrics that are sufficiently vague as to be, like Auld Lang Syne, baffling.  But ever since Barry McGuigan’s manager decided he didn’t want to alienate a good chunk of his protégé’s support, Danny Boy  has been wheeled in as the unifying air for the people in this northern state. The south have their own pain: Ireland’ s Call.

Which raises  a more fundamental question: what are we doing, mixing politics and sport? Everybody says they should be kept separate, yet everybody favours athletes competing in their country’s colours, having their national anthem (usually) played at the medal ceremony. There are even people paid to tot up which country won the medal count event.

Did Paddy Barnes got involved in boxing because he wanted to represent Northern Ireland? Or even Ireland? I don’t think so. Did Usain Bolt became a runner so he could wear Jamaica’s colours? I don’t think so. OK, if it’s a team sport, like soccer or basketball, there’s a trace of a case for having the stamp of national identity. But otherwise, as they say on EastEnders, leave it out. Let’s just enjoy the sport. Meanwhile the chances of Paddy morphing into Rory seem slim.

38 Responses to The curious case of Paddy and the anthem

  1. Mick Fealty August 4, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Not sure what the fuss is. NI doesn’t have an anthem, now or ever so far as I can recall. I don’t know why we have pressurise young Catholic sportsmen over politics. Whether is Paddy to Rory?

    • neill August 4, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

      A very fair point lets enjoy his success

    • madadhmor August 4, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

      You can only blame the predictive text for so much rubbish, A Mhicheail

  2. Francis D August 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Paddy Barns had every right as an Irish Citizen to Reject giving his alleigence to a north of Ireland Anthem. Parity of esteem in a shared future for those who accept and endorse their identity, os a non Issue which should be an no-ones Radar.

    • William Fay August 4, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

      Sorry my friend, whether he likes it or not, he’s a citizen of the UK.

      • colin barr August 10, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

        and hes part of the eu,and so are you,so the tricolour represents you wether you like it or not,

        • William Fay August 11, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

          Colin, what EU map are you looking at! as you’ll not find one that has a tricolour covering all of Ireland.

    • Am Ghobsmacht August 5, 2014 at 7:03 am #

      “parity of esteem” vs “North of Ireland”.

      Some consistency would be nice, it’s not a one way street.,..

    • giordanobruno August 5, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      When he elected to take part in the Commonwealth games (presumably no-one forced him) for N Ireland he took on the trappings that go with that.
      How hard is it to stand still for a minute?

  3. Seán McGouran August 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    The London derriere isn’t a ‘Northern’ tune, it probably originated in Cork or Kerry. As for ‘Da-ha-ha-han -ee Bwoi’, it’s enough to make a cat sick.

    • William Fay August 4, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

      Sean, such a poor attempt at humour, you’ve probably never even heard of Jane Ross.

      • colin barr August 10, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

        lighten up there billy,go and get yourself a pint of guinness,and hum danny boy to yourself,you will feel a hell of a lot better,

  4. Patrick Fahy August 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    When you’re on the subject of identities, the king of Belgium speaking at a World War 1 event today said ” The only basis for a lasting peace is genuine reconciliation and a shared project”. We are definitely in for utopia

    • William Fay August 4, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

      Yes Patrick, a shared project that Paddy Barnes isn’t prepared to accept.

      • Am Ghobsmacht August 5, 2014 at 9:17 am #

        If we made Northern Ireland more appealing to people of a Catholic background then some might be prepared to accept it.

        In the interests of adhering to old school sayings “if you’re going to do something then do it right” should we not try and do the same?

        (Regardless of what SF may or may not do BTW)

        • William Fay August 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

          Ghobsmacht, explain yourself, how are Catholics in NI treated any differently to Protestants?

          • Am Ghobsmacht August 11, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

            Hello William

            Yes, I’ll gladly explain my idea.

            First of all though, I didn’t say Catholics are “treated differently”, I’m not sure where you got that from, but, no matter.

            My points revolve around the following states of affairs:

            Consider the ‘extremes’, on one hand is the extreme of a united Ireland and the tricolour and nationalism etc.

            On the other extreme is a ‘British Northern Ireland’ with the idea of an Ulster flag and GSTQ etc.

            As it stands, the latter stance has very little appeal for someone from a Catholic background even if that person is sick to death of nationalism and MOPEry (and there are such people).

            I think, instead of being Dublin orientated or London orientated we should be more Northern Ireland orientated, somewhere between the above two ‘extremes’, which involves some of the following steps:

            1/ A Northern Ireland flag (No, we DON’T have one officially speaking), one which isn’t used by Loyalists every year

            2/ A Northern Ireland anthem as opposed to GSTQ (and use another stadium for football that isn’t in a loyalist area)

            3/ Political leadership that doesn’t get all hysterical about an Irish language act. If the Unionists got involved in such an act they could alter it and try to take out some of the perception of the language being a ‘republican thing’.

            That way people wouldn’t feel that their culture is being constantly pushed down and that a united Ireland is the only scenario that would allow for cultural ambitions to be realised.

            4/ Calm down on the flag flying front, there’s really no need to have union flags flying 365. Really.

            5/ Improve cross border transport links. Again, many people think that such things would only come about in a united Ireland. If links (e.g. L’derry – Sligo) could be improved then it’s one less thing to wish for.

            Before the GFA it was pretty much guaranteed that most Catholics would be automatic ‘nationalists’, now, since the leveling of the playing field that is no longer the case EVEN WITH unionist politicians behaving the way they are and their constant insistence that unionism is a Protestant only club.

            Can you imagine what effects a few common sense moves such as those listed above might have?

            Many people (comparatively speaking) are happy to be Irish and British or rather have “the best of both worlds” as a pro-status quo person of a nationalist background on Slugger O’Toole put it.

            So it’s definitely doable.

            Would you not like to see Catholics coming to NI games in significant numbers?

            Or for Rory McIlroy to have another choice between the tricolour (in unionist eyes a republican terror flag) or an ulster flag (in nationalist eyes a loyalist terror flag) the next time some one throws a flag at him?

            Now William, I’m trusting you address these points in a logical manner, as in explain why they would be unacceptable and not revert to ‘whataboutery’ or even mentioning SF (for some reason, many unionists try to counter reasonable points by highlighting what SF do or don’t do. This is ludicrous, actions should be judged on their own individual merits, not compared the actions or inactions of others).

            Too many unionists I know are opposed to common sense changes because they see them as ‘surrenders’ rather than necessary steps that could make life better for everyone in NI.

          • William Fay August 12, 2014 at 10:40 am #

            Ghobsmacht, you do talk a lot of sense but all your ideas really involve more movement of the Unionist position and very little on the part of Nationalists. Unfortunately the perception within unionism is they have very little more to give.

          • Jude Collins August 12, 2014 at 10:47 am #

            Do you agree they have v little more to give, William?

          • Am Ghobsmacht August 12, 2014 at 12:45 pm #


            I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there with regards to the ‘perception’ and unfortunately people like Jamie Bryson, Jim Allister and Ruth Patterson are fueling such notions at the expense of unionism itself and indeed just the goal of having a tension free Northern Ireland.

            Again, I find it depressing when people think that unionism should avoid dynamic moves on account of nationalism NOT moving (as goes the perception) as this utterly misses the point that nationalism doesn’t really need to.

            Even with nationalists ‘doing nothing’ the unionist leadership (and the lower echelons of influences such as Bryson, the PC and the OO) do a great deal to make planet NI an unwelcome place for people of a Catholic background.

            Unfortunately, as soon as anyone from the unionist side steps off the red, white and blue merry-go-round they get called a traitor or a Lundy or a patsie or whatever.

            Back to your point about movement, again, you are correct, all my suggestions do involve seemingly more movement from the unionist front, however, how can one win a battle or a bout or a campaign or a game WITHOUT moving?

            (Apologies for the war metaphors, I don’t mean to sound so aggressive, but it seems to be something that strikes a chord with a lot of unionists…)

  5. Perkin Warbeck August 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Jude, your last sentence is ambiguous: which Rory do you mean? Rory McIlroy or Rory Dall O Cathan (Ruairi Dall O Cathain in the original Leprechaun).

    Indeed, love being blind, and :the golfing Rory having once more fallen in love with his original sweetheart, Miss Tita Green could well be called Rory Dall McIlroy once again. But that, one suspects, is a matter for Nike. You either nike the Nickname or you don’t.Mind you there are those who say that Rory during his spell as The Furore over the last year or so was playing blindfolded.

    One suspects though that you mean the second Rory, the one who composed the ageless melody upon which the lyricist Fred Weatherly tailored the three-piece suite of Danny Boy.

    It would be a pity if Paddy B did not morph into Rory D for in truth there is much of the one in the other, so much so that one suspects the morphing process may well have commenced already.

    Amateur boxing consists of three three minute rounds and there is a curious recurrence of the number three in this brief narrative. For instance, three blind musicians play a role in the transmission of the controversial tune down through the centuries.

    First there was the composer, Rory D, the blind harper of noble lineage from the Oak Leaf County of Derry(before it acquired L plates) who had to take the night ferry to the land of thistles and tartan when the O Cathain clann were uprooted and their land planted by the Garden Centre Unionists.

    His most famous tune was kept alive by another blind harper called O’Hampsey who lived in Magiligan and whose life spanned three centureis, from the end of the seventeenth to the start of the nineteenth. It is not recorded if he ever played at Phil the Fluther’s ball where he might have met the daughter of the eponymous Mick Magiligan. She was the right rip unacquainted with the taste of water.

    The next blind musician was a fiddler this time, Jimmy McCurry who played the tune controversial during a fair day (the rain held off for once) in Limavady outside the offices of the Burns and Laird Shipping Company.. As Limavaddy is Leim an Mhadaidh in the original Leprechaun it might be claimed that the tune in question was not in fact the tune the cow died of but rather the one the dog jumped to.

    Certainly, Miss Jane Ross, a local prim piano teacher leaped to her feet when the plaintive if scratchy enough sounds wafted through her open conservatory window. Remember it was a fair day, bordering of the humid.. And promptly sat down once again to transcribe the notes. Unlike the other three of d’oul Dall Clann, Miss Ross could both read and write music. She never credited wee Jimmy with any kudos. (See under D for Dolly Molyneaux and Decontamination) It might be said that Miss Ross said neaux to wee Jimmy the blind street fiddler. Drawing rooms are for the drawing of lines, or they are for nothing.

    Meanwhile, Rory D, the composer, had found himself in the drawing room of Eglinton Castle, Ayreshire. Where the Lady E commanded him to play a tune. She didn’t know her Rores. Peeved at her peremptory manner and her obvious lack of appreciation of his noble bloodlines, he took umbrage and departed in high dudgeon, tuning key in one hand, and harp in the other.

    Sound familiar? Find a contemporary parallel?

    Good, because the next bit is the clincher in the morphing process (see above). After much coaxing and plamasing the blind bantamweight was finally persuaded to return and not only play but play a tune he composed on the spot in the spirit of outreach, inclusivity and reconciliation. That tune was to become his second big hit, his shortbread and butter tune, as it were: ‘Tabhair dom do Lamh’.

    This indeed could well be Paddy B’s own anthem, so often has he heard the title of the tune uttered by the referee, even as he was won another title: ‘Give me your Hand’.

    A compomise might well be negotiated here: instead of ‘Danny Boy’ the second hit sig tune of R.D. O Cathan might be substituted?

    Though with Paddy B. in the green corner nothing could be taken for g. Indeed, one could easily see him fully morphing into Rory D as when the latter on being touched on the shoulder by King James 1 responded: ‘I’ve been touched on the shoulder by a greater monarch than that!’. ‘Who, pray’. ‘The O’Neill !’.

    In Paddy B.’s case substitute Don King for KJ1 and ‘tweet’ for respond. For indeed he is as skilled at the tweet science as he is with the sweet one.

    In the meanwhile, perhaps he might even come around to the current tune: Danny Boy McAlinden of Newry did. Gentleman Jim Reeves sang it in Derry parochial hall with Fr. Edwrard Daly doing the honours as MC and it was played at the funeral of Elvis AARON Presley in Graceland, Memphis, Tn.

    One fancies too that during the time the great Jim Aiken drove Roy Orbison around the byrroads of County L-Derry when he was his promoter the Big O essayed a few bars of the Big D.

    Paddy B is a member of the Holy Trinity ABC. (The recurring number 3). One of the great, erm, dichotomies of Irish Sport is down in Punchestown on the South Circular Road (aka the National Stadium) on Senior Finals Night and to see wee boxers wearing the singlets of Holy Trinity, Holy Family and – yes, Immaculata, duck in between the ropes and proceed to beat seven altar bells out of their opponents. The family that preys together.

    Speaking of altar boys, one must finish on a down note. A rare opportunity was missed in Edinburgh last Saturday for the advancement of the noble cause of the reconciliation of noble art and sock exchange alike. For the vocal and diligent champion of the Commonwealth, Brian Hayes, MEP, might have been called upon to sing in the ring in his legendary boy soprano voice the real national anthem, Danny Boy. But wasn’t.

    (Housekeeping: perhaps the reason why Brian Hayes, boy soprano, MEP was not called upon was because in Dublin the national anthem is pronounced in three (yes) different ways: the national anthem, the national antrim (where boxing is popular) and the national tantrum (where boxing is not). BH hails from the third.

    Seconds out.

    Here comes Paddy B.

  6. Cal August 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    Paddy definitely didn’t tick the northern Irish box !

    • colin barr August 10, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

      good book your after writing there per kin,you should have added that
      the lyrics of danny boy were written by an english man,and put to an americian tune,i love spelling in english its so cool,just like paddy,heres a parody instead of criticising paddy,why dont you go down to bushmills and ask the loyal brethern down there why they want to call their splendid whisky irish,and not ulsterish or british,when it suits you can become anyone,or anything you want,

  7. Brian Patterson August 4, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    My father used to sing a song by one William Rooney called “Dear Dark Head” to that tune. Another song in Irish called “Maidin I mBearra” uses it. Rooney’s song definitely predates Weatherly,s and is a better song. Not sure of the origin of Maid in I mBearra. Either would be an improvement on Danny Boy.There is no more fearful manifestation of humanity than a gathering of northerners in various stages of inebriation intoning that lugubrious and sententious piece of Victorian schmalz in a spurious display of united homage.

  8. Sean August 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    To each his own

  9. Mick Fealty August 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    Anyone think it’s time we got a new flag btw?

    • paddykool August 5, 2014 at 8:50 am #

      Yeah …Mick .Let’s put a big white one . That’s the only one I’d like to see on the flagpoles . All the rest should be banned in Northern ireland..

    • Am Ghobsmacht August 5, 2014 at 9:07 am #

      1000 times yes.

    • madadhmor August 5, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      Mick, we have a flag, a national anthem, a country and a language as have the British. Why fix it if it’s not broken? We can’t have all the minor administrative regions of the ‘UK’ sloping off looking their own trappings. Where would it end up?

      • Mick Fealty August 5, 2014 at 11:06 am #

        Personally, I’m not in the least conflicted over it.

        The GFA was clear about the constitutional status. But perhaps those who have conflicted feelings should try to produce solutions rather than seek to embarrass or vilify sportsmen and women for making the ‘wrong’ choice.

        I’d have taken the nod on the story yesterday from Jude, but I was flat on my back all day with a hideous 24 hour virus.. My extended thoughts now over on Slugger, for those interested…

  10. paddykool August 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Am I alone in thinking that all these awful tunes should be buried in the deepest ,darkest hole at the bottom of the deepest mine. Every one a dirge.Certainly not worth fighting about…or for? Worse than Boom Bang a Bang…for any of you who can remember that particular tripe….

  11. Ryan August 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    A relative of mine has worked with and boxed with Paddy Barnes father in the past and they are a traditional Irish Republican family, so I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that Paddy Barnes did what he did. Its just my opinion but I believe he did it in order to let his community know he’s not proud of having the Ulster Banner as “his flag” at the commonwealth or Danny Boy as his anthem. After all, the Ulster Banner represents an era when Catholics, like Paddy Barnes, were discriminated against in every field.

    I usually agree with Jude but on the topic of representing countries I don’t agree with him. I believe that’s every athletes greatest dream is to represent their country on the world stage and win the top prize and I believe that’s the case with Paddy Barnes and Usain Bolt. Obviously this is difficult for Paddy Barnes when the country he most identifies with most isn’t in sports tournaments like the Commonwealth Games.

    • Am Ghobsmacht August 5, 2014 at 9:11 am #

      It must be galling for many people of a nationalist or republican background to have to the Ulster flag as the one they have to compete under.

      It is a drag anchor to the sense of a Northern Irish identity and I can’t blame Paddy Barnes for doing what he did.

      Either way, hat’s off to him for his success.

  12. ANOTHER JUDE August 4, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    I personally don`t think I would WANT a Commonwealth medal, not as a Republican, seems a bit weird Paddy Barnes representing the six counties if he is against the northern state. Don`t tell him I said that though…….

    • Wolfe tone August 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

      Another jude

      The lack of being taught about the pros and cons of the commonwealth at school could have something to do with irish people participating in the letsgetalongerists games? I also suspect the crave to get ones name up in lights(bloody facebook) for a short while may encourage some to take part.
      Whatever the reasons it is cringeworthy and embarrassing to observe irish people taking part in an event where they are actually giving credence to the criminal British empire. There is ample opportunities for people to take part in European,world and Olympic events and test oneself against ones peers. Alas the competition is stiffer at these events which tells a tale.
      Paddy Barnes bronze medal at the Olympics is a far better achievement that’s for sure.

      I wonder how much Usain Bolt was paid to attend the games????

    • colin barr August 10, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

      ulster has 9 counties,and their flag is yellow with a red cross,you can call the 6 counties what you want, but its not ulster,it is a part of ulster,so go educate yourself in geography,and as the man on the tv says THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE if you want to find it.

  13. Am Ghobsmacht August 5, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    It’s a bit rich for unionists to spite the dummy out or feign indignation when someone doesn’t show sufficient ‘loyalty’ (although what that means these days I don’t know….) in such events..

    They (unionists) do nothing to make NI a place young people from a nationalist background can be proud of, the Republic on the other hand does.

    Using the Ulster flag as ‘the flag’ is so very backward (it is the favoured flag of loyalist bands, how do young people from a Catholic background relate positively to that?), they insist on playing the NATIONAL Anthem at REGIONAL football games in an area that many people would find intimidating and constantly distance themselves from the word ‘Irish’ an word many young people are attached to as well as being funny about ‘Irish stuff’.

    So, once again, they are the makers of their own demise.

    And as for ‘Ireland’s call’, please remember that a number of people such as myself couldn’t and didn’t support Ireland in the rugby before Ireland’s Call came along.

    I for one would always have been cheering Scotland as the tricolour and Soldier’s Song have nothing to do with me.
    Or many other people of a unionist background.

    But by acknowledging a few small things like this and bringing in Ireland’s Call it’s brought some of us in from the cold.

    A problem for both nationalism and unionism is that they while they both have a stated objective, both sides want to achieve said objective on their own terms e.g. in this case unionists want nationalists to magically just ‘stop’ being so nationalist and just support NI without any effort or out reach and some nationalists want to achieve their ends in a very tricolour & ‘Soldier Songy’ fashion.

    And before anyone opens up the jar labelled “predictable retorts” I am NOT repeat NOT dissing the right to follow such flawed strategies, merely pointing out the impractical nature of both stances.

    What I will say though is that there is more pressure on unionists to wise the bap rather than nationalists as the demographic clock is ticking.

    But that in itself begs the question:
    What would the nationalist or republican strategy be IF the demographics were unlikely ever to change?

  14. boondock August 5, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    To be honest I dont really see the problem with the anthem. Yes a bit of a dirge but it is very Irish and very popular in the past with Irish America certainly rather have that than GSTQ. More of a sticking point for me was wait for it …. yep the fleg but Im afraid our golfers and athletes are stuck with that defunct Stormont government rag as neither Loyalist or Republican seems to wants a new one