A new national anthem for Ireland!


It may never replace the rousing roar of ‘sinne fianna fáil’ at an All-Ireland hurling final, but Ireland has a new ‘national anthem’ that captures the modern mood in a way Amhrán na bhFiann doesn’t quite manage.

An ‘alternanthem’ Ireland, Ireland! was recorded for The Irish Times by musicians Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh in their incarnation as The Duckworth Lewis Method.

Unquestionably catchier – and certainly shorter – than the official national anthem, it invokes the names of some post-St Patrick patron saints and scholars on a diverse spectrum from Joyce to Jedward.

In under two minutes, the tune succinctly references our soggy climate, agricultural heritage, music, politics, sport, literature and our current economic woes.

Walsh, frontman with the Dublin band Pugwash, collaborated with Hannon as the The Duckworth Lewis Method for an acclaimed cricket-themed album last year.

He said the musical approach to the anthem was “straight out of the vaudevillian front parlour” and that the pair had a “real laugh” writing it. He also credits singer-songwriter Cathy Davey, who mixed the tune.

“We tried to get the irony and the satire and the melody across in one go. It was very nice to get the call. We loved the idea, but it’s been a very busy time.”

The Choice Music Prize and the Meteor Awards, as well as Hannon’s commitment to putting the finishing touches to his new Divine Comedy album ensured the pair couldn’t get together until last week to work on the song.

“I said to him last week that I think Paddy’s Day has to be the deadline and we should just do this. I went over to his place last week and we did it in about five hours. We’d written the basic tune when I was out helping him out with some artwork on his album.”

Walsh admits that a few of the original lines that gave himself and Hannon a laugh while they worked didn’t make the final cut. But he’s happy with the result.

“I’m very proud that within four lines we did Joyce, Heaney, Beckett and Wilde down to Westlife and Jedward. Just to show the complete and utter demise of our society over a couple of hundred years.”

Derry-born Hannon is the writer and singer behind The Divine Comedy and his re-worked Songs of Love became the instantly recognisable theme tune to Father Ted. He co-wrote an alternative Eurovision song entry My Lovely Horse for the Father Ted episode A Song for Europe.

But calls from some quarters for it to be entered as Ireland’s real Eurovision song following our multiple failed attempts to qualify for the contest fell on deaf ears.

Walsh doesn’t yet know whether Ireland, Ireland! will be embraced as an alternative anthem, but he’s hopeful.

“We’re completely at the whim of The Irish Times and the nation. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, but we’d like them to sing it before the Scottish game this weekend.”

Ireland, Ireland!

By ‘The Duckworth Lewis Method’

Ireland, Ireland, damp sod of earth
lost on the surf of the North Atlantic.
Ireland, Ireland, mountains and mist,
Vodka and chips, it’s so romantic.

Joyce and Heaney, Beckett and Wilde,
Bill O’Herlihy, Dunphy and Giles,
Evans, Hewson, Mullen and Clayton,
Westlife and Jedward the pride of our nation!

Ireland, Ireland, once we were poor,
Then we were wealthy; now we are poor again.
Cows and horses, donkeys and sheep,
Munster and Leinster, Connacht and ******.

Chinese, Polish, Africans too,
Doing the jobs we don’t want to do.
An Irish stew, a nation of nations,
Working for peanuts in petrol stations.

Ireland, Ireland, you are the best
Place to the west of Wales and Scotland.
Sometimes it’s heaven, sometimes it’s hell,
But I’d rather be Irish than anything else.”