The BBC has refused to play a song about the republican hunger strikers after a group of Celtic supporters succeeded in getting it into the UK music charts.
Fans Against Criminalisation caused widespread anger when they organised the promotion of the song – Roll of Honour – in response to government attempts to eradicate sectarianism from Scottish football.
Recorded by the Irish Brigade, the ballad entered the chart yesterday at number 33 after they gave permission for its use by the Celtic supporters’ amalgamation.
Rather than playing the track in full, only the first line of the song – ‘Read the roll of honour for Ireland’s bravest men’ – was heard before chart show presenter Jameela Jamil said: “At number 33 today, the Irish Brigade’s Roll of Honour has entered the chart. The Irish protest song has climbed into the Top 40 after a campaign by Celtic fans who are opposed to the Scottish government’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.”
In a statement issued last week, the band said the song was written at a time of great social and political upheaval.
“It was to commemorate the sacrifice of 10 young men who died in the hunger strike of 1981. They, too, were protesting against criminalisation,” it said.
One Celtic fan has already been convicted under the act for singing the Roll of Honour song with a number of other prosecutions pending.
A similar situation arose last April following the death of Margaret Thatcher, when an online campaign saw the Wizard of Oz track ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead’ enter the top five. On that occasion, the chart show’s producers played only a brief clip of the song.
The Celtic fans’ campaign has provoked an angry backlash from victims of terrorism and unionist politicians.
At least one victims’ group, Innocent Victims United, has written to Celtic Football Club urging it to publicly distance itself from the “disgraceful” initiative.
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (IVU) said: “This song is not a folk song, it is not a sports song, it is not a cultural or traditional song – rather it is a song promoting terrorism, seeking to romanticise its figures through eulogising their criminal-based activities.”
DUP MP Nigel Dodds called the campaign to get the song in the charts “sectarian”, while UUP MLA Tom Elliott described it as “disgusting”.
Last night Celtic Football Club had not responded to a request for comment.
“Read the roll of honour for Ireland’s bravest men/We must be united in memory of the ten/England you’re a monster, don’t think that you have won/ We will never be defeated while Ireland has such sons.
“In those dreary H-Block cages, ten brave young Irishmen lay/Hungering for justice as their young lives ebbed away/For their rights as Irish soldiers and to free their native land/They stood beside their leader – the gallant Bobby Sands.”
It goes on: “Through the war-torn streets of Ulster the black flags did sadly sway/To salute ten Irish martyrs the bravest of the brave.”