Irish folk music has a long tradition of addressing historical events such as the Famine, as well as political issues such as the countries longstanding conflict with England over home rule. Here are 3 of the best Irish folk songs that are about Ireland’s conflict with England.
The Foggy Few
This song was written in response to the Easter 1916 rebellion. This was a armed political uprising by those who objected to English rule in Ireland. The country was divided at the time. Many supported English rule, especially Protestants in the North. However, there were many who objected to English rule. Besides Catholics, there were those who objected to being sent overseas to fight for the English army in the Gallipoli campaign in order to protect other nations from Austrian and Ottoman rule. They thought that they if there were to fight for a nations independence, it should be their own. This sentiment is expressed by the lyrics “better to die under an Irish sky than Sulva or Sud-el-Bar”.
Men Behind The Wire
This song was written in the early 1970’s. It was written in reaction to Operation Demetrius. This was a operation by the British Army in Northern Ireland whereby men and women were picked up and interned without legal counsel. The British were looking for anyone they suspected of being involved with the Irish Republican Army. The operation created enormous controversy because many civilians were killed during the initial round up.Thousands of people were detained.
There were mass protests across Ireland and England. The European Commission on Human Rights investigated and found evidence of the use of torture. Ironically, the singer who wrote the song ended up being rounded up and detained by the same forces he was criticizing.
Come Out Ye Black And Tans
This song is about the British paramilitary force that was used in 1920’s Ireland. The Black and Tans were made of ex-British Army who were sent in to Ireland to suppress Republican activity. They were referred to as “Black and Tans” because of the color of their uniforms. The Black and Tans had a controversial history, including attacks on Irish citizens who were not involved in the I.R.A. They were involved in burning villages in retaliation for I.R.A. attacks on their fellow paramilitary. They were suspected of other heinous crimes, including the murder of a priest.
The lyrics of the song describe the dispute between members of a Dublin neighborhood. One side are the Irish republicans who despise British occupation. On the other side are the Black and Tans. The song is told from the viewpoint of a republican who mocks the false bravery of a solider who ran from the I.R.A at Killeshandra, yet “bravely faced down” natives in the Zula war with a “16 pounder gun”.