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05th Sep 2023

Wolfe Tones singer’s brutal message to Joe Duffy after Electric Picnic performance

Simon Kelly

The lyrics to ‘Celtic Symphony’ have drawn major controversy recently.

Lead vocalist of the Wolfe Tones, Brian Warfield has said that “the young people of Ireland have spoken in numbers that Joe Duffy could never get”, after the legendary Irish band saw record crowds at Electric Picnic over the weekend.

Festival-goers gathered in their droves to see the rebel band perform at the Electric Arena on Sunday, with thousands spilling out of the tent to sing along to their infamous tune ‘Celtic Symphony’.

And it’s that tune that once again has the whole of the country talking, with many expressing concern over the young crowd singing along to the refrain “Ooh, aah, Up The Ra” – referring to the IRA.

The debate over the usage of the phrase in the song has been a hot topic for a while, with things boiling over last month on Joe Duffy’s Liveline show on RTÉ, where the host called Warfield’s music “awful, brutal old rubbish.”

But Warfield has hit back, speaking to The Mirror after his band’s packed out performance in Stradbally:

“I think people got their answer about the right to sing a song and I think at the end of the day, the people of Ireland have spoken.”

“The young people of Ireland have spoken in numbers that Joe Duffy could never get.”

“That song (‘Celtic Symphony’) is about Glasgow Celtic… Not many people know all the euphemisms that I put into that song, telling the story about Celtic and what they stand for and who they are and they always supported Ireland going back to the Troubles.

“People love it. It is a great song, I can’t stop people singing it and I don’t think anybody… people think they have the power to stop people singing that song… it won’t happen.”

Wolfe Tones record Electric Picnic crowd draws controversy over song lyrics

‘Celtic Symphony’ and its accompanying lyrics has been a big talking point since it landed the Ireland women’s national team in bother when they sang it in their dressing room, at Hampden Park, after qualifying for their first ever World Cup.

Only last month, The Wolfe Tones again recieved criticism from several unionists after their set at the West Belfast Festival, which included ‘Celtic Symphony’.

After the EP performance last weekend, Newstalk presenter Ciara Kelly said the song “romanticised” the Troubles.

“It has become sort of folk legend or something and there is a romanticised notion of rebels and rebellions.

“I’m not sure that they differentiate between the provisional IRA and the old IRA and all the things that maybe we did because that was where we were from.”

While the debate rages on, though, Warfield is still enjoying the popularity of the band after last weekend’s “unbelievable” crowd.

“They like The Wolfe Tones and their music. It is no harm to like them or the Beatles or whatever you like. We are a musical group, we’re not a political group and we sing about Ireland.”

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