Belfast boxer Michael Conlan – who controversially entered the ring on St Patrick’s night to fans chanting ‘Ooh ah, up the ‘RA’ – has previously said he became a “full force rebel” after listening to Irish music while living in Los Angeles.
Fighting in New York, Conlan’s entrance music was ‘Celtic Symphony’ by Wolfe Tones which contains the lyrics ‘Ooh ah, up the ‘Ra’ – a choice of song which has come under considerable criticism.
Former mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston said it was “disgraceful that [Conlan] has no regard for the victims of IRA terrorism” while John Stewart of the UUP said it “dragged him and the sport into the gutter”.
On an episode of the Late Late Show in January, Michael Conlan revealed his love of Wolfe Tones.
He said: “I’d never really listened to Irish traditional music until I went to LA (for a year). And then when I came back I was a full force rebel.
“I know nearly every single Irish song now, every Wolfe Tones song you could name. While I’m in the dressing room it’s the music I listen to when I’m warming up.”
Northern Ireland boxing champion Dave Boy McAuley said it was unfair to condemn Conlan without knowing who took the decision to play the particular Wolfe Tones song as he entered the ring.
Regardless of who made the decision, the retired Larne fighter told the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster it had alienated boxing fans.
He said: “If it was me, I’d be disappointed. In the wee country that we live we need everybody behind us and if you start and play songs like that you’re drawing a line and you’re dividing your boxing fans and alienating one side which is totally and utterly wrong because you need everyone behind you no matter what sport you’re involved in.”
Discussing the song he said: “It’s the sort of thing you would hear at a Celtic-Rangers football match. I have never heard songs like that being sung at a fighter’s entry to an arena. I’m quite surprised.”
He added: “You have to take into consideration maybe it wasn’t young Michael Conlan’s doing. I remember when I was fighting years back and I came out to the sound of ‘Eye of the Tiger’, I had no input into that, it was all done behind the scenes by the people who looked after me.”
Mr McAuley said the decision could have been taken by someone other than Conlan to win over the Irish American crowd who “see things differently than we do” in NI.
He added: “We’re condemning young Conlan and he might be totally innocent.”
Conlan’s management team Top Rank again failed to comment on the issue.