Northern Ireland news

Prevalence of offensive songs highlighted in era of social media

Loyalist bandsmen marching outside St Patrick's Church in July 2012

OFFENSIVE songs have long been part of Irish history but the advent of social media has shown how prevalent many remain in the 21st century.

Targets in the recent past have included the Pope and members of the Catholic denomination, while there has also been condemnation of pro-IRA chanting.

Twitter and Facebook have been used to share and highlight a number of examples of blatantly sectarian content. However, the mass media can sometimes publicise offensive songs and chants even inadvertently.

Last year, BBC Northern Ireland was criticised for broadcasting Chelsea supporters in Belfast singing “F*** the Pope” during a rendition of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline ahead of the Super Cup final at Windsor Park.

Following outcry the broadcaster said it would not replay the item but after an investigation said it remained satisfied that "the words that have been attributed to Chelsea fans in this report are inaudible and that their use can only be inferred, rather than proven".

In 2019, a video went viral showing a newly-married couple at their wedding reception in Carrickfergus singing "F*** the Pope and the IRA" to the tune of Tina Turner's Simply The Best. Police said no offences were identified.

In the same year, a group of Northern Ireland football fans were filmed in a Belfast bar singing "We hate Catholics, we hate Roman Catholics" to the tune of Tiffany's I Think We're Alone Now.

In 2015, a group of loyalist bandsmen successfully appealed convictions for playing The Famine Song, to the tune of the Beach Boys' Sloop John B, outside St Patrick's Church on Belfast's Donegall Street three years earlier.

Earlier this month a video showing people singing a pro-IRA chant on a Co Tyrone football club's team bus was reported to the Irish Football Association. The clip, filmed after Coalisland Athletic FC security victory in the Irish Junior Cup final, resulted in a fine for the club.

In 2019, there was criticism of Féile an Phobail after pro-IRA chanting was heard during a Wolfe Tones concert for the second year running. Footage emerged which appeared to show some in the crowd involved in chants including "Up the Ra" and '"F*** your Union Jack".

In 2020, Armagh camogie players were filmed singing a pro-IRA song in a changing room. A video posted on social media appeared to show some of the team shouting "Ooh ah, up the Ra" after a Junio All-Ireland Championship win.

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