It was an honour and privilege to be asked by Celtic Fans against Criminalisation’ to permit them to promote the song ‘The Roll of Honour’ to aid the funding of their campaign against the law that effects everyone with Irish roots or a love of Irish culture. Ballads have been an integral part of our culture and heritage from time in memorial and the role of the Bards and Street Singers holds a unique and honoured place in our history.
I wrote the song ‘The Roll of Honour’ in 1982 at a time of great social and political upheaval in the North of Ireland. It was to commemorate the sacrifice of ten young men who died in the Hunger Strike of 1981. They, too, were protesting against Criminalisation. The song was a reflection of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs, held by many in Ireland and throughout the world who felt that these deaths could have been avoided if the Brittish Government at that time had not taken such a harsh and unbending attitude towards the prison crisis. The line “England, you’re a Monster” is figurative language and is a reference to this belief. The word ‘Monster’ is defined as someone ‘unnaturally cruel’ – The Government at that time. It is not or was not, at any time, to be construed as referring to the English Nation or the people of England, it is not a Racist remark.
Neither is the song a sectarian song. It is an historic, social commentary about one stage in a long freedom struggle that is still continuing but that now uses democratic paths and institutions that did not exist in the early 80’s. The ten men commemorated in the ‘The Roll of Honour’ hope to bring about a land that would cherish… ‘…all the children of the Nation equally’ (Irish Proclamation, 1916). In the words of Wolfe Tone, a protestant leader of The United Irishmen, they wish to establish a society which would ‘ substitute the name Irish Man in place of Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter’. The dream of Bobby Sands and his comrades was for a Nation where sectarianism and violence would be a thing of the past:
‘Our revenge will be the laughter of our children’ (Bobby Sands)
On behalf of The Irish Brigade.