Sunday 24 February 2019

'Fenian' Christmas carol in NI Assembly protest

Ralph Riegel

TAOISEACH Garret FitzGerald was reminded of the plight of Northern Ireland nationalists by a letter which outlined complaints in the Stormont Assembly about "Fenian Christmas carols" being taught in State schools.

The document, released in the 1984 State archives, showed Dr FitzGerald being asked to consider a response to Roy Thompson who had raised the issue of so-called "Fenian carols" being taught to Northern Ireland youngsters.

Mr Thompson raised the issue before the Northern Ireland Assembly on November 20, 1984.

He cited a Christmas carol, which was of historic French origin, being sung by children from the Newtownabbey area.

It was recorded by the BBC for a special Christmas radio musical broadcast.

Part of the carol's chorus includes the lines: "Sing carols to Mary at this Christmas time, the purest of mothers our mother sublime, Ave Maria. To Mary so lovely our prayers we bring, All people on earth raise our voice and sing, Ave Maria."

Mr Thompson said local families were outraged over the precise content of the carol.

The objections centred on the Marian references in song.

"I understand from parents as far afield as Portavogie that their children had already learnt the carol before they knew about it," he said. "Now the same situation has developed in primary schools in the Newtownabbey area."

"It concerns me that in one such State school in Newtownabbey some pupils said: 'We are not singing this Fenian thing'. I am quoting the words that were said."

Mr Thompson said he found the matter both "shameful and deplorable".

In reply, he was informed that the assembly had written to the BBC about the Christmas carol and the concerns of local parents.

"I did not even get the courtesy of an acknowledgement," one assembly official said.

However, the assembly paid tribute to those who had first raised the issue over the carol and the BBC broadcast.

Details of the matter, which were also published in the 'Church of Ireland Gazette', were included for Dr FitzGerald's attention.

There was no indication of what action, if any, the Taoiseach took over the matter.

The file indicated that no response was made by the BBC over the carol protest.

Irish Independent

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