John Arnold: I won’t watch rugby, because ‘Ireland’s Call’ is PC craziness

"I cannot fathom why, if they wear the green jersey of this country, they cannot sing and accept our National Anthem," so says John Arnold ahead of Ireland Vs New Zealand game
John Arnold: I won’t watch rugby, because ‘Ireland’s Call’ is PC craziness

IRELAND IN UNION: The Ireland team stand for the National Anthem before their match against Russia in the World Cup in Japan

THE weather forecast for the next few days is broken. They’re saying we’ll have sunny spells and heavy showers.

After the deluge on Monday night — in our area just over two inches of rain fell — the land is getting mucky and very heavy.

From a farming point of view, the day to day work we do at this time of year is both weather-related and weather-dictated. We’re heading towards the end of October and our thoughts are very much turned towards the day when the land must take its winter rest.

Within a few weeks all animals will have to be housed for a few months. I always think it’s a great bonus when we get a good, dry, hardy spell into early November as it does surely shorten the winter. We’ll have to take what comes, rain, hail or storm.

One thing is certain, though, whatever the weather and whatever the work, I won’t be watching or listening to the rugby game on Saturday.

I’m no bigoted, anti-‘Foreign games’ advocate. Rugby is a hugely popular game all over the world, but I just think it’s too negative and over-technical — any game where you kick the ball out of the field of play rather than keeping it in doesn’t make sense to me!

But each to his own, I say.

Incidentally, ’tis said that William Webb Ellis was the ‘inventor’ of the modern game. He was a pupil at Rugby school in Warwickshire and for a period of about 20 years the headmaster of that acclaimed academy was one Thomas Arnold !

One of his ten children was the poet Matthew Arnold — I’ve got the results of my DNA test back but so far I haven’t ‘matched’ up with any of that illustrious clan. That’s rugby’s background in a very small nutshell.

Now, because I’m not a rugby fan doesn’t mean I hate the game or anything like that. Yerra no, shure, I wouldn’t be a fan of cricket, soccer, boxing or basketball either but I bear them no ill will.

Some think that because I’m involved with Gaelic games I look down on other sports in a sneering manner as if they were inferior. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I won’t watch the rugby this Saturday though as I just cannot fathom a so-called Irish team in the quarter final of a world competition not standing to attention for our National Anthem.

It galls me when I’m driving somewhere and a match commentary is on the radio to hear the commentator — sometimes an Irish commentator — say: “Now we’ll have the anthems”.

If Ireland are playing away from home we hear Ireland’s Call being sung. I love Phil Coulter as a singer, musician and composer and I’ve absolutely no axe to grind with him. He was asked to write a song, and fair play to him, he did it.

Recently, I watched a television programme all about the ‘Troubles’ in Ulster, rugby and the song written by Phil. The genesis of the programme was that Ireland’s Call more or less played a fundamental role in the Peace Process in this country. I couldn’t disagree more on that point.

The point was made both in that television show and on a wider basis that the Irish National Anthem, Amhráin na bhFiann, was offensive to people of what are called ‘the Unionist persuasion’. I fundamentally disagree with that argument.

During the time of the worst atrocities in Ulster in the 1970s and 1980s, the Irish Rugby team still played games home and away. During all the ‘Troubles’ I know that many Ulster players wore the green jersey of Ireland proudly. Some were of a Nationalist background, others Unionist. I don’t recall any major bruhaha at the time.

We have nearly been persuaded now that when we voted in May, 1998, for the Peace Process and deleted Articles 2 and 3 from our Constitution that Ireland’s Call was part of the deal. It was not, I never voted that our National Anthem would only be played for ‘home’ games and when Irish fans went away the anthem was conveniently parked and replaced by something else.

Some say Amhráin ns bhFiann is too militaristic and glorifies violence and upsets some people. Well, let me tell ye some facts. Ireland’s history is full of invasion, rebellion, uprising, plantation, executions and civil strife. That is our history and let no one try and deny it. Of course, awful things happened in our history. We invited invaders in, others came uninvited. We fought them and we fought ourselves but that is the chequered past we have.

Of course, everything in our past is not praiseworthy but we cannot change history. It’s there so we must live with it and learn from it.

Getting back to teams from the island of Ireland representing the people of Ireland, I cannot fathom why, if they wear the green jersey of this country, they cannot sing and accept our National Anthem.

Thomas Francis Meagher gave us the tricolour flag of green, white and orange. He was a far-seeing man and recognised inclusivity so the orange colour was there to represent those people in Ulster whose history and traditions were interlinked with Orangeism.

I’m a proud Corkman, a nationalist and a Republican and have no Orange culture in my background. Do I object to a flag where one colour has nothing to do with my history? I don’t, because I accept that on this island of Ireland, four provinces and 32 counties, we have a diverse and at times fractured history.

If I’m at a match or a function where the green, white and orange flag of my country is flying and I see it fluttering in the breeze, I’m not thinking about William of Orange am I? No, political correctness has gone absolutely mad in recent years and Ireland’s Call is another silly example of that craziness.

Peadar Kearney wrote The Soldier’s Song, which was adopted as Ireland’s national Anthem. It consists of a repeated chorus and three verses. In acctual fact, what is sung and played as the Irish National Anthem is just the chorus. We all know it in Irish but the English translation is as follows;

Soldiers are we, whose lives are pledged to Ireland,

Some have come from a land beyond the wave,

Sworn to be free, no more our ancient sire land,

Shall shelter the despot or the slave.

Tonight we man the ‘bearna bhaoil’,

In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal,

‘Mid cannons’ roar and rifles’ peal,

We’ll chant a soldier’s song.

Well is it awful and offensive to anyone? I don’t feel it is anyway. Yes, it’s a rousing, military-style song, one that makes the chest swell as we sing it ‘neath the Green, White and Orange flag. Yes some of our forefathers wanted a fully independent 32 county Ireland and others had different views. Singing that song anywhere in the world, while representing Ireland, could not and should not cause offence. How many people even know the words of verses one to three?

Now let’s consider the last four lines of the third verse.

Our camp fires now are burning low

See in the east a silv’ry glow

Out yonder waits the Saxon foe

So chant a soldier’s song.

So in the second last line we have mention of ‘the Saxon foe’, oops, maybe that causes grave and mortal offence to certain people with a British heritage, but sure the Saxons were a Germanic tribe who invaded what we call England a long time before we had any bother over here!

As I said, the verses are never used on State or sporting occasions, no, it’s just the chorus written by Peadar Kearney we sing.

People who represent and support Ireland anywhere and everywhere should read and re read Amhráin na bhFiann and sing it with pride.

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