On Song for The Deaf With the National Anthem

The Irish Sign Language version of the National AnthemThe Irish Sign Language version of the National Anthem

We all have memories of the National Anthem. It was played at the end of the night in pubs and clubs. Those of us who could barely stand, managed to hold ourselves together for the few minutes it took to play it. But modern fashions took over. The National Anthem lost its place.

Today, sports teams are seen standing awkward, humming along. Most do not know the words. Worse still, few care.

Some of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee before the launch

Some of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee before the launch

So much so, Seanad Éireann Public Consultation Committee had a report on it. The Eye was at the launch in Dáil Éireann this week.

Some of the issues considered

The first issue they looked at was the popularity or otherwise of the anthem. It got backing of 84% in a Sunday Times poll in 2017, and the research of the PCC showed that the wording should be left as it is.

Some who contributed to the debate both through the process and in the media expressed concerns it had a militaristic tone.

More had issue with “Fianna Fáil” in the title – the anthem predated the party and its name by a minimum of three years – among other issues considered.

Hearing the needs of the Deaf

The most interesting aspect acted on was a desire of a version of the national anthem in Irish Sign Language. The issue of this was brought up by a student of Bishopstown Community School in Cork.

Alain Newstead spoke at the hearings held on December the 5th, last year, of his experience feeling left out on seeing classmates sing the anthem, which he could not partake in.

It received unanimous backing of the committee, and staff and students of Bishopstown contributed to the official Irish Sign Language version, which was preformed in public for the first time at the launch.

A Citizen Got to Speak

As part of the submission process, Raymond Daly of Tullamore made a submission. His focused on the teaching of the anthem in schools. This was a topic close to his heart, being a parent himself.

On behalf of exiled citizens, and the New Irish, Ramond Daly also spoke.

Quoted in the report, he stated in the public hearings:

Please recognize that the national anthem belongs to the Irish people and not just to those of us who live in the Republic of Ireland.

Tom Carty with Conal Kearney and Raymond Daly

Tom Carty with Conal Kearney and Raymond Daly

Public Consulatation is a chance for the public to make their voices heard

We all see the adverts. Mostly we ignore them. We think our voice will not matter. But as in cases such as Raymond Daly’s – where a submission makes a unique point – you can. But if you dont submit, your concerns cannot be considered.

During the public questions, I spoke from the floor. I noted and acknowledged the contribution for the deaf community, and the efforts to protect and promote the anthem. I then outlined a couple of my thoughts on the issue.

Giving a Voice to the “Other” Irish Peoples

I said, in a spirit of parity of esteem as promoted in the Good Friday Agreement, should there not be a version of the national anthem in Ulster Scots?

Whether nationalist of unionist in outlook, they too are Irish.

Ulster Scots people have a profile of being unionist, but there is also a strong Irish nationalist heritage there from the likes of Henry Joy McCracken, the Orr brothers and Betsy Gray, from 1798 to Bulmer Hobson and Ernest Blythe in more recent times. Heather Humphries today is also of Ulster Scots stock. There is a strong heritage in East Donegal, and also Monaghan, with a residual heritage in Longford, Leitrim and surrounding areas, where the McCloughrys hailed from, along with the Clintons and the Dennistons…

Also, no mention was made of the Irish Traveller community. They have their language. Cant or Shelta are the main dialects. As they are Irish too, could a version of the National Anthem not be done in their language?

Senator Mark Daly took the points to consideration, but outlined that those ideas were never submitted when the invite of ideas was issued. Which shows that yes, those little adverts do matter.

I had thought that by now the Department of the Taoiseach would be on these issues, and itself be feeding concerns like that in. But, alas no.

A Few Words from the Families

As all know, The Soldiers Song was written by Peadar Kearney. His grandson Conal spoke of his desires for the anthem to have the same legal protection as the emblem of the harp, and the tricolour flag. He also spoke of how proud Peadar ould have been of the ISL version.

The music was written by Patrick Heeney, who tragically died the following year. He was buried in a paupers grave.

Liam Ó Rinn wrote the Irish version, which we know today as “Amhran na bhFiann”. His grand-nephew Lord Mayor Dublin Nial Ring was in attendance at the event. He too spoke of how great it was to see the ISL version of the national anthem.

Protocol, Sports and Education

A booklet outlining the background of the report, the report itself, and protocols agreed was handed out. While misuse will not incur fines at this stage, sporting bodies are encouraged the ensure proper respect and usage of the national anthem.

While the GAA – unsurprising given its heritage – has a good record of this, other sports mainly by accident may not. While Rugby uses Irelands Call for away fixtures for political reasons, many sports use solely the Irish national anthem. Their sports peoples ability to sing it can vary, often to a quite low standard.

Learning the National Anthem in the School Environment

It has been suggested by the PCC that the day before St Patricks Day be a day for promoting the anthem. Students of other nations too can share their anthems in the school environment. This will allow for a sharing of cultures.

Raymond Daly spoke of the need for proper education of the anthem throughout the year in addition to this day. Every child should know it in Irish and English by the time they leave primary school, he impassionedly stated.

Promoting the National Anthem in the Public Eye

Efforts such as having the anthem on the passport help keep the anthem in the public eye. This has already been incorporated thanks to the efforts of civil servants.

Non commercial use of the anthem is to be allowed. Variations from the official version is to be discouraged. The anthem, the lyrics, music and arrangements thereof shall remain in the public domain.

A glimpse into how Irish Democracy works

We got a look into the workings of Irish democracy. Whether we agree with its direction or not, there is an invite to the public to participate.

So, keep an eye on the issues as they come up. Make your submission. Your opinion does matter.

About the Author

Thomas Carty
Thomas Carty is a Renmore resident, having moved to Galway for work a couple of years ago. Both his parents were originally from Ballinalee in Co. Longford but he grew up in Banagher and maintains his Offaly connections with membership of the poetry group Tullamore Rhymers Club. An amateur genealogist and historian, he writes on a range of topics that grab his interest. He works at security to pay the bills, and travels widely around Europe to keep sane!