Deirdre Reynolds: What part of ‘Grace, just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger’ is offensive?

Easily-shocked minority who get offended because of a few harmless ‘republican’ songs being blasted out strike a bum note and need to get over themselves...

The Wolfe Tones

Deirdre Reynolds

Can anyone please explain to me exactly what part of the lyrics: ‘Grace, just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger’ is offensive?

Irish rebel songs were back in the headlines last week after a musician told how he was ordered not to play one of several increasingly divisive ditties in a Wexford pub.

Disgusted Luke Whitty took to social media to reveal how he was told by The Crown Bar in the county town to scrap songs such as ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’ from his repertoire after less than a handful of complaints.

Among the other barred hits was ‘Grace’, the beloved ballad famously penned by Westmeath’s O’Meara brothers, Frank and Seán, in 1985 about Easter Rising leader Joseph Mary Plunkett’s final hours.

Whatever about Brendan’s bro Dominic Behan’s tribute to their IRA father, Stephen, who fought in the War of Independence – memorably appropriated to flog Brady’s Family Ham just a few years ago – anyone who sees the revolutionary’s imagined ode to artist Grace Gifford as they wed just hours before his execution as anything other than a love song frankly deserves to face the online firing squad.

Suffice to day, that after the singer told how a manager rang him to say that “from here on out there can be no rebel songs” after just two complaints, despite a “buzzing” Saturday night atmosphere, the group that owns the pub waved the white flag, admitting that the employee in question had “overreacted”.

Honestly, is it any wonder that the Wolfe Tones – famed for their rousing versions of both songs –announced on Monday that they are set to call time on their glittering career next year?

At this point, as a nation, I feel like we’re spending more time rowing over rebel songs than we ever did actually... well, rebelling.

Take the furore over our girls in green being caught on camera chanting ‘Ooh ah, up the Ra!’ in their dressing room after qualifying for the Fifa Women’s World Cup last year, resulting in the FAI being slapped with a €20,000 fine – and, of course, ‘Celtic Symphony’ by the Dublin trio reaching number one in the Irish iTunes chart.

Penned to celebrate the centenary of Celtic Football Club, it’s perhaps no surprise that the nationalist anthem with its pro-IRA lyrics – described by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as simply “a nice song to sing” – rubs some up the wrong way.

But when the likes of ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries (a protest song about two young boys killed in the Warrington bombings) gets swept up in the rush to be perennially offended, and not a peep about Bruce Springsteen belting out the equally misunderstood ‘Born in the USA’, practically every other month at the RDS, it could be time to press the pause button.

I’m with Joe Brolly – and there’s something that you don’t hear me say very often – after he swiped last week: “Is ‘Ireland’s Call’ OK?”

Legendary performers Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne’s packed-out performance at Electric Picnic during the summer, which shows that our iconic rebel songs aren’t going anywhere,.

‘Grace’ scribes the O’Mearas even scooped Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s prestigious Gradam Na hÉigse Award for their indelible contribution to Irish culture in August.

Maybe the best response to anyone petty enough to moan about it during a traditional pub singsong is ‘Ooh ah ... yer Ma’.

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