Conlan under fire after ‘Up the ‘RA’ ring entrance

Belfast boxer Michael Conlan has been accused of “dragging the sport into the gutter” after he entered the ring in New York on St Patrick’s Day with fans chanting “ooh ah, up the ‘RA”.

Monday, 18th March 2019, 9:47 pm
Updated Monday, 18th March 2019, 11:11 pm
The Homecoming Fight Night, SSE Arena, Belfast 30/6/2018 Featherweight Bout Michael Conlan with Adeilson Dos Santos Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Jonathan Porter

Some of the crowd could be heard singing the lyrics which form part of the Wolfe Tones’ ‘Celtic Symphony’ – the song used by the fighter as he entered the ring.

The bout resulted in a win for 2012 Olympics bronze medallist Conlan against Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez at Madison Square Garden.

While some described the atmosphere as “electric” as the 27-year-old Belfast boxer made his arrival, his choice of entrance music came under substantial criticism from unionist councillors.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster posted a link on Twitter to details of the IRA murder of shop assistant Jillian Johnston who was shot 27 times in her car near Belleek on St Patrick’s Day in 1988.

She commented: “Those chanting “ooh ah up the ‘Ra” should take a moment and read about what IRA done on this day 31 years ago. Not actions worthy of glory. All terrorism was wrong and should be condemned – not glorified.”

Former mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston of the DUP said: “Very disappointing that Michael Conlan does not follow the lead of many previous boxing and sporting heroes so that people can support him across the divide. Disgraceful that he has no regard for the victims of IRA terrorism.”

East Antrim UUP MLA John Stewart tweeted: “The sport of boxing has done so much to break down barriers, cross the divide and unite people from all backgrounds in Northern Ireland. It’s deeply regrettable that Michael Conlan doesn’t respect or understand this.

“It’s time someone told him that walking out to ‘Oh Ahh Up the RA’ is dragging him and the sport into the gutter. Sad.”

Loyalist activist and blogger Jamie Bryson said: “Michael Conlan enters his sporting event to ‘oh ah up the RA’ – reference of course to the IRA, a proscribed terrorist organisation. Could you imagine the sheer outrage if a unionist sportsperson walked out to Daddy’s Uniform or No 1 Platoon? Why the disparity?”.

Conlan has won all 11 of his fights since turning professional in 2017. When he had his first pro fight in Belfast last year he entered the ring to Irish ballad Grace.

Conlan’s management team – Top Rank, who are based in Las Vegas – had last night not responded to a request for a comment on the boxer’s entrance music.