Samuel Morrison: Troubling conclusions over how ‘up the Ra’ became acceptable

The Republic of Ireland women’s team sang the pro-IRA chant after their World Cup play-off win over Scotland in October

This letter by Samuel Morrison, Press officer of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, appeared in yesterday’s ‘Belfast Newsletter’ (15th Dec 2022).

I commend it to you for it very concisely illustrates just how ‘glorifying and praising the IRA’ has become publicly acceptable to the nationalists of Ireland, North and South, despite the atrocities, carried out by that terrorist organisation, fronted by Sinn Fein, against Protestants and Roman Catholics.

How quickly murderers and terrorists become ‘paladins’ worthy of praise.

It is but Irish history repeating itself. Murderers from within the ranks of the ‘anti-treaty’ rebels of the 1922/3 Irish Civil War were soon elevated to ministerial status in the early years of the Dublin government.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster

Samuel Morrison: Troubling conclusions over how ‘up the Ra’ became acceptable

UEFA’s decision to fine the Football Association of Ireland €20,000 after their women’s team celebrated victory over Scotland by singing “up the Ra” should cause many to reflect.

When the controversy first broke the song from which the chant is derived, Celtic Symphony by the Wolfe Tones, rocketed to the top of the Irish charts. Before that, the chant was familiar to people well outside the confines of republican bars. The prominence of the song at the publicly-funded concert which rounds off the West Belfast Festival has angered those who suffered at the hands of the Provisional movement for years.

When the video of the Republic’s team singing the song emerged, Michelle O’Neill refused to offer an opinion saying that the FAI had issued a statement and “we should leave it at that”.

Recent polling suggests most of our nationalist neighbours share her nonchalant attitude to the offence caused. Seven out of 10 nationalists agree with Ms O’Neill’s contention that there was “no alternative” to the IRA’s 30-year campaign of terror.

It must, therefore, come as something of a culture shock for them to discover that opposition to singing the praises of those who abducted and murdered a mother of ten a few days before Christmas in 1972, shot workmen on the side of the road because of their religion in 1976, bombed Christmas shoppers at Harrods in 1983, massacred 12 for attending a Remembrance Sunday service in 1987, and turned Patsy Gillespie into a human bomb in 1990, is not limited to unionists.

One might hope that the ruling by UEFA that praising such conduct amounts to a “violation of the basic rules of decent conduct” would prompt some introspection. But I am not sure it will.

A big part of the reason for my pessimism lies with the Belfast Agreement which treated criminals in jail for terrorist offences as a class of convict which could be released as part of a political deal. Innocent victims have been fighting the consequences of that ever since.

When questioning the motivation for founding a GAA club in East Belfast is immediately met with accusations of sectarianism, even while the GAA retains things like a club named after a hunger striker who was in jail for kneecapping (think about that – they named a sport’s club after someone who took away someone’s ability to walk), don’t be surprised if it becomes acceptable to say you support the campaign the hunger strikers engaged in.

The media too plays a role.

On a daily basis people from a very republican background – like Patrica McBride – appear as commentators, and I feel that presenters fail to identify them as republican the way that loyalist voices are rightly identified as loyalist.

Much of what the media does in this regard reflects the policy of officialdom. The sanitising language one hears on the media is drawn from government documents. Words like terrorists are replaced by newspeak terms like non-state actors. No-one was ever murdered. They were killed. Sometimes, things are simply ignored. If you take the official tour of Stormont the guides will pass the memorials to those members of the Northern Ireland Parliament, Assembly and Senate who were murdered by the IRA and UDA without comment. That’s not by accident but a deliberate policy agreed by the Assembly Commission which includes unionist representatives.

When unionism accepted Sinn Fein as valid partners in government they wrote them a character reference. Those who continued to unashamedly celebrate the IRA were fit coalition partners.

Having accepted Sinn Fein as valid partners even after murders committed while in office – does anyone even remember Kevin McGuigan not to mention Robert McCartney? – policy implications followed. The aforementioned Patricia McBride was appointed as a victims’ commissioner by Dr Paisley and Martin McGuinness. What qualified her for that role? The fact that her brother was shot by the SAS while planning to attack a UDR patrol. The Executive Office said he’d been killed “on active service”.

While the UEFA ruling is welcome therefore, reflecting on how singing “up the Ra” became acceptable leads to some troubling conclusions about society.

Samuel Morrison, TUV press officer