Northern Ireland

Irish language rappers Kneecap branded 'sectarian and condescending', after posting video referencing fall from bonfire

West Belfast rap band Kneecap. Picture by Mal McCann
West Belfast rap band Kneecap. Picture by Mal McCann West Belfast rap band Kneecap. Picture by Mal McCann

A new video posted by the west Belfast rap group Kneecap has been branded "sectarian and condescending tripe" as they claim to be teaching Irish to "Prods" but refer to a fall from a bonfire.

The three-member rap group, who sing in Irish and have just signed a record deal, posted the video on social media this weekend.

Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Próvaí, no strangers to controversy, claimed they wanted to teach "Gaelic to Prods" and suggested: "Here's a few sentences to use in July. Today's word is tine chnámha, bonfire". 

The three then went on to throw phrases out referencing the taking of drugs around bonfires before adding the sentence: "I fell off the bonfire".

Father-of-two John Steele died in 2022 after falling from the bonfire he was helping construct on the Antiville estate in Larne.

John Steele who fell to his death from a loyalist bonfire
John Steele who fell to his death from a loyalist bonfire John Steele who fell to his death from a loyalist bonfire

"This is sectarian and condescending tripe," Richard Garland, the independent unionist, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Another added: "Divisive and worse, not even funny." 

While some said they thought the video was funny, most of the responses were negative, including one from an X user from the Shankill Road who first raised the issue of those who have died from drug overdoses, including in nationalist areas. 

Read more: Kneecap sign record deal, dedicate it to Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí

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Independent unionist activist Richard Garland
Independent unionist activist Richard Garland Independent unionist activist Richard Garland

The user added: "A family lost a father falling from a bonfire and this is your response. Do the decent thing and apologise for the offence caused."

Hundreds of mourners attended last year's funeral service for Mr Steele, a window cleaner who was close to the top of the 50ft pyre when he fell to his death.

Mourners were told Mr Steele had been an avid Liverpool fan with an interest in motorbikes and fishing. They were also told that the family were thankful to all those, including the emergency services and they had been overwhelmed by the support they had received since his death.

Kneecap announced last week a deal signed with London-based Heavenly Recordings.

"Finally, a record label has been mad enough to sign us - a west Belfast group who rap in Irish," said band member Mo Chara.

"I wanna say congratulations to Heavenly Records. Finally, we can clear all our debts." 

Móglaí Bap, Mo Chara and DJ Próvaí included footage of them toasting the deal with Champagne and signing their recording contract with quills.

Heavenly is also home to Belfast DJ, producer and composer David Holmes. It was founded by Jeff Barrett.

In tweet announcing the deal, the trio thanked Barrett and made a dedication to the man who gave the band their first ever gig, Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí, the Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcaster who died last week.