OK, relax, I’m not going to talk about the coronavirus. Happy? Instead I’m going to talk about ditching Amhrán na bhFiann and replacing it with ‘Ireland’s Call’.
While you retrieve your blood pressure from the ceiling, I should tell you I do this because Andy Pollak writes about it in today’s Irish Times. As a northern-born Protestant, he doesn’t like our present national anthem too much: “I don’t think singing about cannon and rifles and soldiers is appropriate” because the Good Friday Agreement said we were aiming to unite all of the Irish people peacefully. Instead, Andy goes the ‘Ireland’s Call ‘ route: “I feel genuine pride when I sing ‘We have come to answer our country’s call from the four proud provinces of Ireland’ or ‘Together, standing tall, shoulder to shoulder, we’ll answer Ireland’s call.’ ” The way Andy sees it “Clearly, the militaristic, nationalistic, early twentieth century language of Amhrán na bhFiann wil have to go.”
Giving wing to his imagination, Andy suggests a competition for a new national anthem. Who will judge the winner? Bono, Van Morrison, Mary Black, Michael Longley, Rita Ann Higgins, Medh McGuickian, Paul Muldoon, Christy Moore, Paul Brady, Barry Douglas and the Chieftains, with Bob Dylan in the chair.
How do you like them apples?
While I think Andy should modify his intake of hallucinogenic drugs, and I would urge the Irish people to engage in hand-to-hand war before agreeing to ‘Ireland’s Call’, Andy does raise an important point: if we’re going to have a reunited Ireland (and I’m confident we are) it has to be a new Ireland, the product of thorough-going reflection and planning. Everything should be up for consideration – including a new national anthem. Where Andy goes wrong is that he wants to start with this change. Sorry, Andy. We’ve been down the piecemeal reconciliation route and it’s a cul-de-sac. What’s needed is a thorough-going look at what kind of Ireland will provide room and welcome for us all.
Assuming we’re not all dead from coronavirus first.