I was immediately surprised. As the whistle blew, to bring relief and joy at Ireland’s narrow win over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup, I could hear Zombie, a well know international hit for The Cranberries pumping out across the Stade de France and on into the Paris night.
I was intrigued. Who chose that song? I immediately had images of Saracen tanks on Belfast streets. I had never sensed it as a celebratory song for a sports event. Mind you who heard Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline as a sports anthem!
I suppose, as you are all expecting, I was expecting U2’s Beautiful Day or something. At least Zombie hadn’t been the obvious.
I then woke up on Monday morning and Zombie was the raging row on social media. It seems that Republicans are not happy that a song of protest against the IRA should be seen as a song of unity.
It got a little laughable for me when I read post after post that described The Cranberries as West Brits. I lived in Dublin for a few years and knew a few West Brits but none of them had names like Dolores O Riordan.
If anyone who was against the bombs and bullets tactics of the IRA were called West Brits, then a great number of people of the Republic were West Brits in 1993.
It was in March 1993 that the IRA exploded a bomb in Warrington, England. Three-year-old Johnathan Ball was killed and twelve year-old Tim Parry had his life support machine turned off just five days later.
There was an out pouring of horror in Dublin at the time. I was living there and felt that something different was happening. Dublin mother Susan McHugh brought 20,000 on the Dublin streets to protest the murder of children in the name of Irish freedom. It was a stepping stone through more horror as we stumbled our way to an IRA ceasefire eighteen months later.
The Cranberries were riding this same horror and asking question about the violence of the northern Troubles. It was 1993 that they wrote Zombie.
After I posted this blog I got a little more info about the song's original use at sporting events. It seems that those "West Brits" known as Limerick GAA started using it before the Munster Rugby crowd took it board. A song as born in Limerick as You'll Never Walk Alone was in Liverpool. It makes sense and is now sneaking out from Munster to the entire island.
So, I am not sure that the vehemency of those against the Irish Rugby team celebrating to Zombie has much robustness of argument. It is certainly not as offensive as a moment a couple of months ago when in a mid Ulster pub, the only other punters sharing the bar with us, came back in after they had left to shout “Up the Ra!” at what could only have been us.
It is however a reminder of how sensitive we are to songs and chants in certain situations and how much they still reach deep into our souls and offend and hurt us. We need to find songs that unite instead of divide, no matter what the sensitivity of our feelings.
I have been a fan of Snow Patrol’s Run. Is it too Northern? Why does that matter? It is some anthem in a stadium when Gary Lightbody fires the crowd. Staying north we could offer Teenage Kicks an utter punk rock classic.
There are also Thin Lizzy classics. What about Whiskey In the Jar or The Boys Are Back in Town. The thumping Horslips song The Power and the Glory is maybe not well enough known. The Sawdoctors’ To Win Just Once seems appropriate. Or… how would it be, should Ireland actually win this World Cup, if 30,000 Irish are heard singing No One Compares To You, so close to Sinead’s sad passing. There is also Beautiful Day!