Amhrán na bhFiann is Ireland’s hymn and “must be legally protected for our future generations”, the grandson of Peadar Kearney, the man who penned the national anthem, has told a Seanad committee.
Conall Kearney was addressing the committee conducting a public consultation on the status, treatment and use of the national anthem.
Mr Kearney said: “Both the English and Irish version of Amhrán na bhFiann/The Soldiers’ Song must be given the respect, dignity and protection it so rightfully deserves.”
He was speaking as the committee considered calls by Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly for the State to renew copyright on the anthem, which ended 2012, 70 years after after the death of Mr Kearney.
Mr Daly said the anthem no longer had any formal recognition by the State in legislation.
He has criticised the use of the anthem for commercial use including a campaign for a range of clothes in which phrases from the song were used on T-shirts.
He said unlike the harp and flag, it was the only national symbol not protected by copyright.
Mr Kearney said his grandfather wrote the lyrics of the song in late 1910 or early 1911 and not as mistakenly believed in 1907. He quoted from an affidavit or sworn statement Mr Kearney made in 1926 when the State adopted Amhrán na bhFiann as the national anthem.
He also pointed to “stand out” moments when the anthem was sung including “when it was sung by the volunteers as they marched into the GPO on Easter Monday 1915 when Pearse proclaimed a free and independent Ireland”, and when Ireland played England at rugby in Croke Park in 2007.
Mr Kearney said “our identity as a nation and as citizens is defined by our history. The Soldiers’ Song/Amhrán na bhFiann links us to our history and therefore our identity”.
Director of the Defence Forces School of Music Lt Col Mark Armstrong, in a statement to the committee, said the music adopted by the executive council on July 12th 1926 as the Irish national anthem and played on the day by the Army No1 band “remains substantially the same as that performed today”.