Belfast Telegraph

Opinion: Michelle, how is it ‘respectful’ to taunt victims in rebel songs

By Nelson McCausland

Last Friday night, Linfield and Celtic met at Windsor Park. Celtic FC had turned down their allocation of tickets for the match and a number of bars in west Belfast showed the match on their premises on large screens for Celtic supporters.

One of these was the Rock Bar on the Falls Road, which describes itself as ‘Ireland’s Biggest Rebel Bar’ and ‘Belfast’s Home to Glasgow Celtic’.

As well as the match, the patrons were entertained by singers Gary Lawlor, Rising of the Moon and Damien Quinn in the upstairs bar and Gerry Og and Spirit of Freedom in the downstairs bar.

Meanwhile, up at the Devenish Arms, the site of the Celtic fanzone, the entertainers were Damien Quinn, The Irish Brigade and Gary Lawlor.

They may not be household names around the world, but the singers are well-known to those with a love of ‘Irish republican culture’.

Damien, Gary and Gerry are all regulars at the weekly ‘Rebel Sunday’ in the Rock Bar and their performances are always appreciated by the enthusiastic patrons.

Quinn has even written a song about ‘Rebel Sunday’ and one line explains that ‘Gerry Og and Damien Quinn sing the songs of the IRA’. Indeed they do. And they are not the only ones.

The ‘rebel music’ repertoire includes republican songs such as My Old Man’s A Provo, My Little Armalite and The IRA Will Set Them Free. The titles alone explain what ‘rebel music’ is about.

You might imagine that The SAM Song is about someone called Sam, but how wrong you would be. It is actually about the delight of an IRA terrorist when the IRA were able to acquire a surface-to-air missile (or SAM).

One of the most popular songs on the ‘rebel music’ scene has the lyrics: “Go on home, British soldiers, go on home/have you got no f****** homes of your own? F*** your Union Jack/we want our country back.”

Another popular rebel song has the title 18 Brits Were Blew To Bits and it is a celebration of IRA atrocities and murders.

These include the massacre of 18 soldiers near Warrenpoint, the murder of nine RUC officers in a mortar attack in Newry, the murder of Lord Mountbatten and the killings of Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife, Lady Cecily.

It is a litany of death and yet customers dance to it and sing along, celebrating the IRA bombs and the slaughter.

At the Warrenpoint inquest, a doctor said he found dead and injured men, scattered limbs and decapitated bodies, but some people seem to think that these murders are a good subject for pumped-up, alcohol-fuelled entertainment.

Of course, such ‘rebel music’ is not limited to bars and clubs in west Belfast. The same songs can be heard any week of the year at many venues elsewhere in Northern Ireland, the Republic and some parts of Scotland.

There is a whole Irish rebel music scene and it is popular, but it is ugly, it is sectarian and it is poisonous.

Songs have the power to mould and motivate, so what sort of influence is there in songs such as these?

You may remember the Sinn Fein election posters demanding ‘respect’ and you may have heard Michelle O’Neill and other Sinn Fein politicians talking about the importance of “respect”.

So here is a question for Michelle O’Neill: where is the respect for the innocent victims of the IRA?

Where is the respect for the families of those who were so callously murdered by the IRA?

The ‘18 Brits’ were 18 young men and they had families, so where is the respect for those who still mourn the loss of their loved ones? The nine police officers had families too, so where is the respect for them?

If we are to build a shared and better future in Northern Ireland, then there are many issues that must be addressed.

And when that list of issues is being drawn up, then surely this dark underbelly of Irish culture has to be one of them?

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