Wolfe Tones booked for second night: West Belfast Festival urged to consider Paddy Kielty’s thoughts on IRA chants

The West Belfast Festival has been invited to reconsider Paddy Kielty's thoughts about a popular IRA chant after it was confirmed the band famed for singing it – the Wolfe Tones – has been booked for a second night.
The West Belfast Festival has been urged to reflect on Paddy Kielty's thoughts about pro-IRA chanting after it booked a second night for the band most famed for such lyrics, the Wolfe Tones. Photo: PAThe West Belfast Festival has been urged to reflect on Paddy Kielty's thoughts about pro-IRA chanting after it booked a second night for the band most famed for such lyrics, the Wolfe Tones. Photo: PA
The West Belfast Festival has been urged to reflect on Paddy Kielty's thoughts about pro-IRA chanting after it booked a second night for the band most famed for such lyrics, the Wolfe Tones. Photo: PA

As well as playing the last night of Féile an Phobail on 11 August, organisers have now booked the band for 10 August.

The band hit headlines in recent years for their song Celtic Symphony, which contains the controversial chorus "Oooo Ah Up The Ra".

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In 2022 the Republic of Ireland women's football team manager Vera Pauw and senior players apologised for chanting it to celebrate winning their World Cup play-off win over Scotland.

A south Armagh woman also made headlines in 2022 when she chanted the line to a shocked former DUP leader Arlene Foster who, together with her father, both survived IRA bomb and gun attacks.

Kenny Donaldson is director of victims group the South East Fermanagh Foundation, which represents victims of Troubles murders from right across the community.

Reflecting on the demand for a further date for the band to play in Belfast, he said: "Irish Rebel music which glorifies violence is a juggernaut and that has been allowed to gather speed by ineffective use of the law to hold accountable those responsible for the glorifying terrorists and the supposed causes they represented.

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"Paddy Kielty coined it well at the beginning of last year when discussing the future constitutional position with Tommy Tiernan and we would ask all concerned with these performances to reflect on his words."

The West Belfast Festival has booked an extra night for the Wolfe Tones due to popular demand.The West Belfast Festival has booked an extra night for the Wolfe Tones due to popular demand.
The West Belfast Festival has booked an extra night for the Wolfe Tones due to popular demand.

He was referring to an interview on RTE One last year when Co Down comedian Paddy Kielty - whose father John was murdered by the UFF - discussed the IRA chant with Irish chat show host Tommy Tiernan.

Kielty said it was impossible to unite the island of Ireland to include nearly a million Unionists "without changing some furniture to make those people feel welcome".

Tiernan asked: “What do you think they'd like?”

Kielty replied: “I think you could probably start with not singing 'Ooh, ah, up the Ra' in the changing rooms maybe."

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But Tiernan interjected, saying: “That's so harmless, that's harmless.”

Kielty replied: “I know it is, but, you know, what's funny about it is that if you were asked to rejoin the Commonwealth and you saw the Northern Ireland Ladies' Team up there singing ‘They're up to their neck in Fenian blood’ and singing the Sash, you'd sit there and think to yourself, 'Jeez, I'm not sure about that'. You see? Right?"

Tiernan replied: "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah… we have to have the maturity and love to make that [unification] as okay as we can for them [unionists]”.

Mr Donaldson said that in recent years he has brought young people who use the chant face-to-face with Protestant and Catholic victims of terrorism.

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"Victims explain to the young people the impact that such chants have upon them; that it's a form of psychological torture and that those three letters 'IRA' when chanted bring them back to the place where their lives were forever changed. At that point there is an awakening within the young people and they then understand the gravity of their actions."

The West Belfast Festival was invited to comment.