Integrity of anthem ‘at risk without protection’

The Times, Catherine Sanz, Monday, 04 June 2018

GPO Picture

The government should not try to block legislation to protect the national anthem from parody and commercialisation, a Fianna Fáil senator has said. Mark Daly said he was disappointed that politicians had signalled that they would oppose his call for the national anthem to be protected through legislation. He said that the issue should not be divided along political lines.

Copyright on Amhrán na bhFiann expired at the end of 2012, 70 years after Peadar Kearney, its author, died. Mr Daly was the chairman of a committee that considered whether to protect the song by enshrining it in law.

Last year a TV advert for Brady Family ham began with a man standing to attention as the closing of the anthem played on a record player. Dunnes Stores used the anthem in a 2015 social media advertising campaign for a line of clothing by Paul Galvin, a former Kerry footballer. The clothing featured slogans such as “Warriors are we” and “Sworn to be free”, translations of phrases from the anthem.


“We need to act quickly on protecting the anthem because it will continue to be used for monetary gain,” Mr Daly said. “Especially in the run up to the 110th anniversary of the anthem being written next year, there should be unity on the issue of protecting it.”


The Seanad held a public consultation process on the anthem last year and Mr Daly compiled a report based on these submissions. It said that permission should be sought from the finance department for use of the national anthem in advertisements and that this should not be granted if the anthem is “modified, parodied or demeaned”. It also proposed standardising a sign-language version of Amhrán na bhFiann, and that a web link to a video of the anthem should be published in Iris Oifigiúil, the state gazette. Mr Daly said that there was some opposition from Fine Gael supporters over the words “fianna fáil” being in the opening line of the national anthem. He said it was incorrect to make any connection with the political party because the Irish language anthem predated the party by three years.

Mr Daly also said there was a need to protect the national anthem because the Irish language version had never been formally recognised by the state. He said the integrity of a national symbol was at risk after several companies had used it in advertising campaigns.


Mr Daly said that among the 86 submissions to the public consultation, only three were opposed to protecting the anthem in legislation. Two were from members of the public who had written their own national anthems and obtained copyright status and the other was from Paschal Donohoe, the finance minister, who said it was not necessary.

A survey for The Sunday Times last year found that only about 40 per cent of people knew the chorus and 14 per cent did not know a single line. It found strong support for the national anthem, with 82 per cent saying it should be mandatory for children to learn it.


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