God Save the National Anthem?

Ed Curran writes in the Tele today in support of playing a Northern Ireland specific anthem instead of God Save the Queen at NI football matches. It is a change that is long overdue.

In the orange corner however, Mervyn Storey MLA demurs:

Playing the national anthem for the national team was never a problem. Others are trying to make it a problem now.

There are two fundamental mistakes in this statement: firstly, it has always been a problem (to non-unionists at least) and to claim otherwise is simply denial. Secondly, the “national anthem” and the “national team” don’t refer to the same nation. Never mind the potential offence, playing the British national anthem for the Northern Ireland national team is a category error. While Northern Ireland remains part of the UK, its football team is not a UK-wide team, and should not use UK-wide symbols. Equally, England should get their own anthem, as Scotland and Wales have already done. As one commenter puts it:

This is my point, it was stupid, England played GSTQ, then two minutes later we played GSTQ? The funniest thing at Old Trafford was the confused look on all the English faces and you could actually hear them chatting to each other during the match, I can imagine the conversation of “here mate, why are you Paddy’s singing our song?”

God Save the Queen is a dirge, but it is the anthem of the UK and will remain so. It is entirely appropriate for UK-wide organisations, but not for those based in one of the constituent countries, which should develop their own symbolisms, even if only to avoid confusion like in the incident above. The possibility that this may ease the discomfort of nationalists is a welcome side effect, but should not be the prime reason for change.

A proper NI anthem would also be useful in for Irish rugby, where proper parity could be achieved through playing the team anthem (Ireland’s Call) and the local anthem (of the jurisdiction) at all matches, North or South – the current (equally offensive) fudge that Ravenhill is a “foreign” ground would then no longer be an issue. This may either prompt, or be dependent on, an acceptable Northern Ireland flag to go with it.

I have long been under the impression that Danny Boy was the (unofficial) anthem of NI, but the Tele only lists it as one of ten options (some of which are patently silly). I think this is a missed opportunity to promote what could be a fine anthem. From wikipedia:

Weatherly did, however, acknowledge that “Danny Boy” was sung “all over the world by Sinn Feiners and Ulstermen alike”, and noted that the song had “nothing of the rebel song in it, and no note of bloodshed”.

If we are to have anthems at all (and sometimes I doubt the wisdom of that) surely it is better that they evoke wistful nostalgia than echoes of conquest.


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