Inappropriate use of national anthem to be discussed in Seanad

‘Amhrán na bhFiann’, out of copyright since 2012, was used to promote Dunnes Stores

Sanctions for inappropriate use of the national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann, will be discussed in the Seanad on Tuesday.

Its music and wording were used in a 2015 advertisement by former Kerry footballer Paul Galvin to promote a line of clothing at Dunnes Stores.

Mr Galvin said at the time lyrics from the anthem inspired the name of his Vanguard debut collection. “Warriors are we’” (Sinne fianna fáil) and “Sworn to be free” (Fé mhóid bheith saor), two lines translated from the anthem, appeared on T-shirts and sweatshirts Mr Galvin designed for Dunnes.

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly, rapporteur for the relevant Seanad public consultation committee, said Trinity College's Prof Eoin O'Dell would appear before the committee on Tuesday to discuss how and what sanctions might be applied for such inappropriate use.


Amhrán na bhFiann has been out of copyright since 2012, 70 years after the death of its author Peadar Kearney, Mr Daly said. He believed it was the only national anthem in this situation, while its Irish language version "was never formally adopted" by the State.

It was “the only State symbol not protected,” as the harp and flag were. He also pointed out that, while Guinness also used a harp as a symbol, where the State was concerned the harp was “reversed, with a different number strings for different institutions of government”.

Anthem’s custodians

Among those appearing before the committee in its two sessions on Tuesday will be representatives of the Department of Finance, which has responsibility for copyright in such matters, and the Defence Forces who are generally seen as custodians of the anthem.

Also there will be Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Tony Fitzgerald who has been discussing the national anthem on visits to schools in the city. One such school was in Bishopstown where a deaf student challenged him as to why the anthem wasn't available in sign language. That student, too, will also appear before the Seanad committee.

Mr Daly said the committee has received over 100 submissions from the public on the anthem.

"A few proposed it be replaced by Ireland's Call," he said, "and two proposed the words 'fianna fáil' be dropped from its opening line 'Sinne fianna fáil'.

Word change

That, he "opposed 100 per cent." There was "no public support, I believe, for changing the wording of Amhrán na bhFiann. Some years ago, the idea of removing 'fianna fáil' from our national anthem was mooted by a number of figures connected with Fine Gael. "

But "common sense prevailed" when former minister for finance Michael Noonan "stepped in, and stamped out any talk of changing the words. Fianna Fáil does not, and will never, support such a change," Mr Daly said.

The original Soldiers' Song (Amhrán na bhFiann) was written in English by Pedar Kearney in 1907. The Irish language version was first published in 1923, three years before the Fianna Fáil party was set up.

Amhrán na bhFiann was formally adopted as the national anthem in 1924. A recent opinion poll "showed 82 per cent support" for it, Mr Daly said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times