Belfast Telegraph

Guidelines should protect national anthem rather than legislation, says D'Arcy

The Government wants guidelines and not laws and penalties to protect the national anthem.

Amid calls for the expired copyright to be renewed, Michael D'Arcy, minister of state in the Department of Finance, said the move would be at odds with Irish and European law.

"We feel guidelines are the way to deal with it rather than legislation," the minister said.

The position was set out as the Seanad Public Consultation Committee opened hearings on the status, treatment and use of Amhran na bhFiann, written in English as the Soldier's Song, by Peadar Kearney over 100 years ago.

Three options are being looked at: to take no action, to officially recognise the anthem and set down guidelines on usage, or to introduce further laws to outlaw its use for commercial purposes like advertising.

Seanad also discussed recognising an Irish sign language version of the anthem after Alain Newstead, a profoundly deaf pupil at Bishopstown Community School in Cork made an impassioned plea for a formal translation that he could understand and use.

"Help me to realise that dream," he told the committee.

Mr D'Arcy raised concerns about penalties being introduced for people disrespecting the anthem.

He referenced the Sex Pistols' 1977 classic hit God Save the Queen and current protests at sports events in the US where athletes are seen to "take a knee" while the Star Spangled Banner is played.

"People are entitled to have an alternate view. I support people's right to have an alternative view," the minister said.

Mr D'Arcy said penalties for misuse could prove to be counter-productive and lead to the use of the song being disparaged or demeaned for political purposes or to make a point about free speech.

He also told the committee he was not in favour of placing restrictions on its commercial use.

The Department of Finance paid IR£1,000 in 1933 for the copyright of the Soldier's Song. It was renewed in 1965 and it expired at the end of 2012.

Written in 1910 by Peadar Kearney, according to his grandson Conal Kearney, it was accompanied by a score written by Patrick Heeney.

The song was translated into Irish by the civil servant and linguist Liam O Rinn. His version Amhran na bhFiann was first published in 1923 in An tOglac journal and also the Freeman's Journal under the pen name Coinneach. It came three years before Fianna Fail was founded by Eamon de Valera.

Mr D'Arcy noted the first line of O Rinn's translation - Sinne Fianna Fail.

"I'm taking a very cold objective view of this - should it be changed, it shouldn't be changed," he said.

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