Belfast Telegraph

Victims campaigner says Conlan needs to "speak up and show courage" following controversy

Michael Conlan’s entrance at Madison Square Garden
Michael Conlan’s entrance at Madison Square Garden

A victims campaigner has said Belfast boxer Michael Conlan needs to "speak up and show courage" following the controversy surrounding the entrance to his latest fight.

On St Patrick's Day, the 27-year-old provoked outrage after walking to the ring to The Wolfe Tones song Celtic Symphony, which includes the lyrics "Ooh ah up the Ra".

Conlan was accused of "glorifying terrorism" while his promoter, Bob Arum, said the fighter didn't mean to offend anyone and people "need to get over it because the Troubles are over".

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, said the Belfast fighter "needs to understand he is an ambassador for this community".

"Michael Conlan may or may not have been aware of the song chosen to which he would enter, but having followed Boxing for many years it is almost inconceivable to think that his management team and he would not have had input in the choosing of the song, it's an intrinsic part of the fighter's preparations prior to a fight commencing," he added.

"The promoter has stated that people need to get over themselves, that the Troubles have ended - this ignorant and crass response illustrates just how out of touch some are with the realities of not only Northern Ireland's past but also its' present."

Many have pointed out how the song choice contrasts with views Michael Conlan has previously expressed.

In 2012, he tweeted an anti-sectarian message, writing: "Doesn't matter where you're from in Ireland or Northern Ireland!#boxing#onefamilyoneblood#stopthissectarianism".

During an appearance on RTE's Late Late Show, however, he also expressed his love of Irish traditional music and, in particular, The Wolfe Tones, describing himself as a "full-force rebel".

"I love Ireland. I lived abroad for one year in LA. The only music I listened to... I never really listened to Irish traditional music until I went to LA and went abroad. Then when I came back, I was a full-force rebel!," he said.

Mr Donaldson, however, said that "rebel songs are not Irish songs" and they "glorify and/or romanticise terrorism and criminal violence".

"Those songs sang to commemorate the IRA are not folk songs, they are very different and generally have ethnic hatred and intolerance at their heart," he added.

"The sport of boxing held communities together (particularly inner urban working class areas) over the worst years of the Troubles, it was and is a sport of discipline and honour, the events in recent times bring dishonour to this noble sport.

"This is why Michael Conlan needs to speak up, he needs to show some of the courage outside the ring that he so ably demonstrates inside the ring and for which he once had my respect and the respect of so many others."

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