Saturday 15 December 2018

'Not all characters in songs and stories are angels' - Shane MacGowan responds to Fairytale controversy

Season’s greetings: Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan promoting ‘Fairytale of New York’ in 1987. Photo: Tim Roney/Getty
Season’s greetings: Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan promoting ‘Fairytale of New York’ in 1987. Photo: Tim Roney/Getty
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Shane MacGowan has responded to recent criticism of the use of a word which is offensive to the gay community in his Christmas classic, Fairytale of New York.

The Pogues frontman issued a statement to Virgin Media Television's The Tonight Show on Thursday night in response to calls from two RTE 2FM DJs to have the word censored during airplay.

Presenter Eoghan McDermott took to Twitter this week to object to the word which he condemned as a "slur" and "insult", while presenter Stephen Byrne revealed how he felt when he heard it played in a club, "I stood in a room as over 200 people screamed a word thats been used to make me feel like an outsider, with such joy and cheer."

Shane McGowan, who wrote the song in 1987, and who sang it with the late Kirsty MacColl, released a statement explaining why he included the word in the song.

"The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character," he wrote.  "She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate."

He continued, "Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend!  She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively."

MacGowan went on to say that he does not want to get into an argument about the song and has no problem with it being censored during radio airplay.

"If people don't understand that I was trying to accurately portray the character as authentically as possible then I am absolutely fine with them bleeping the word but I don't want to get into an argument," he concluded.

RTÉ yesterday confirmed that the song will continue to be played uncensored on RTE radio as it has for the past 30 years.

The debate comes days after a US radio station revealed that it had dropped 'Baby It's Cold Outside' due to a lyric which it perceives as out of step with the #MeToo movement.

Read more: RTE Radio will not censor Fairytale of New York despite objections to word offensive to gay community

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