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"A Sustained Attack By The Establishment" - Joe Brolly On The 'Up The Ra' Controversy

"A Sustained Attack By The Establishment" - Joe Brolly On The 'Up The Ra' Controversy
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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Joe Brolly is well known in Irish spheres as an outspoken, impassioned voice on social issues, and his move into podcasting has given him a new platform through which to express some of those views.

Brolly's podcast Free State with Dion Fanning can often give way to fascinating discussions about issues at the heart of Irish culture, and this week's was no different.

Brolly and Fanning's discussion this week saw them debate the treatment of the Irish women's soccer team in the aftermath of their qualification for the World Cup last October, during the aptly-titled episode 'Ooh Aah, Up Which Ra?'

In the course of their discussion, Brolly slammed the Irish media for their treatment of the team, after a video emerged of them singing 'Celtic Symphony' by the Wolfe Tones in the dressing room after their play-off victory over Scotland secured qualification for the 2023 World Cup.

He also made a fascinating comparison with the manner in which similar controversies surrounding Leinster Rugby were handled.

Joe Brolly analyses reaction to 'Celtic Symphony' controversy

The Ireland women's football team created history last autumn, when they sealed qualification to a major tournament for the first time ever. A 1-0 victory in their play-off against Scotland in Glasgow sealed qualification for this summer's tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

In the aftermath of the match in Glasgow, footage was shared on social media of the team in the dressing room celebrating by singing along to music from a speaker. Among the songs heard were 'Love Story' by Taylor Swift and, more controversially, 'Celtic Symphony' by the Wolfe Tones.


The team received a strong backlash from much of the Irish media, and the FAI were ultimately fined €20,000 by UEFA for the incident.

On this week's episode of Free State with Joe Brolly & Dion Fanning, the pair debated the differing reactions received by the Irish WNT and by Leinster Rugby for similar incidents in a similar timeframe.

Brolly and Fanning noted an incident from 2019, which saw the Leinster players filmed singing the song after winning the Pro14 final away to Glasgow Warriors.


Furthermore, they noted an incident in early 2023 which saw Leinster apologise after 'Celtic Symphony' was heard over the tannoy at the RDS after a New Year's Day victory over Connacht.

Brolly noted the differing reactions from much of the media towards the two incidents, and bemoaned how the success of the Irish team had been tainted by the outcry which followed:

It's reported as hijinks - as it was - and 'nothing to see here.' [The Leinster Rugby incidents]

And then the Irish soccer team, widely seen as working class, in their moment of great triumph do exactly the same thing. And there is a vicious and sustained humiliation of them. It destroys celebrations that are once in a lifetime. That fortnight can never be returned to them - it's a stain on this.

It was a deliberate, sustained attack by the establishment - Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the media. It was on the front pages here...slaughtering the girls.

The girls were subjected to a really outrageous, widespread bullying. Vera Pauw - she was bemused, she's from Holland - she was walked out to make an apology.

It was more than that [ruining the celebration], it was humiliating. Vera Pauw was asked about the girls and she said the girl who posted that was in her room, weeping. She was in her room fucking weeping because of this.

Then, again, we see on the playlist at the Aviva [note: the match took place at the RDS], at the end of a game - one of the tunes is Celtic Symphony. The journalists realised that it was being played and said, 'oh, this is being played.' And Leinster said, 'oh, we're terribly sorry about that.' And it was described as a gaffe. And that was the end of it. Where's the humiliation? Where's the people being wheeled out and asked to apologise?

Instead of protecting these girls, we humiliated them.

Joe Brolly also mentioned specific articles in Irish broadsheet newspapers which responded to the incident with graphic recollection of atrocities carried out by the IRA during his impassioned speech.

Fanning largely agreed with the point, while arguing that the contexts behind the two incidents were unique.

The full podcast is well worth a listen, and can be found here on Spotify.

SEE ALSO: Report: Two High-Profile GAA Referees Fail Fitness Tests; Will Miss Championship

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