Northern Ireland news

Alan Partridge fans hail comedy 'genius' as Irish alter-ego sings rebel songs on BBC

Steve Coogan as Sligo farmer Martin on BBC One's This Time with Alan Partridge
Brendan Hughes

THERE was a time when controversial rebel song Men Behind the Wire being aired on primetime BBC TV was unthinkable.

But the song, once famously banned by RTÉ, got a surprise airing on BBC One's This Time with Alan Partridge on Monday night.

While Partridge is famed for cringe-comedy gold, even seasoned fans were taken aback as his new show took an unexpected turn courtesy of his Irish alter-ego.

On the latest episode of magazine show Alan Partridge featured a Sligo farmer and Partridge lookalike called Martin.

Martin, also played by comedian Steve Coogan, ended the programme by bursting into a rendition of rebel songs 'Come Out Ye Black and Tans' and 'Men Behind the Wire'.

Warning: Video contains strong language

In the highly unexpected moment for prime-time BBC, the character was suddenly joined by musicians with Irish instruments as he sang lyrics including, "Armored cars and tanks and guns, came to take away our sons".

"Oh my God, that was like an advert for the IRA," a flustered Partridge uttered as the segment drew to a close and the credits rolled on Monday's episode of the parody show.

Viewers expressed their surprise online and praised the unanticipated sketch, aired just after St Patrick's Day.

"I get the feeling that Irish Alan Partridge moment on last night's This Time With Alan Partridge will go down as a classic moment in comedy history," one Twitter user said.

Another tweeted: "Irish Alan Partridge singing rebel songs to English Alan Partridge – the pinnacle of my TV-watching career #absolutegenious."

Fine Gael Dublin TD Noel Rock tweeted: "Never thought that'd be something I'd see on prime-time BBC."

Sinn Féin councillor Sarah Holland quipped: "The fella who rang the cops for Tommy Tiernan will be losing it right now." She was referencing how the Derry Girls actor's political-themed jokes during a comedy performance in Belfast last week were reported to police.

Steve Coogan's mother hails from Co Mayo and he spent childhood summers holidaying in the west of Ireland.

Men Behind the Wire was written by west Belfast musician Paddy McGuigan in the aftermath of internment during the Troubles, when hundreds were held without charge or trial.

The songwriter, who died on St Patrick's Day in 2014, recorded the anti-internment track in 1971 with his band Barleycorn – topping the Irish charts.

Men Behind The Wire remained one of the most popular rebel songs throughout the Troubles and was covered by acts including the Wolfe Tones, Liam Clancy and the Flying Column.

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