Brief history of our national anthem

How many of us must have felt a great sense of pride as we viewed the parade on Easter Monday 2006 as the soldiers of Ireland moved through the streets of Dublin. How vast the difference as we watched the men in green march into O'Connell Street on Easter Monday 2006 and the group of men who marched up O'Connell Street (then Sackville Street) on Easter Monday 1916. On that week in 1916, many good Irishmen gave their lives for their country. How different from today when members of the Irish army work in a peacekeeping capacity through the United Nations to save lives in other countries.

How proud we now feel as Irish people to stand and hear our own National Anthem ring out over the Dublin streets.

Speaking of the National Anthem, how many of us know its origin or the many questions now being asked about its suitability on certain occasions? Before our present National Anthem was adopted, "God Save Ireland" was the unofficial anthem used by the Fenians and the official anthem was "God Save the King" until the Irish Free State was established in 1922. The official anthem was seldom sung by nationalists.

The words of our anthem were written in1907 and published in The Irish Freedom newspaper in 1912. It consisted of three stanzas and a chorus. The chorus was adopted as the National Anthem in 1926 and thus replaced the unofficial "God Save Ireland". Our anthem, Amhran na bhFiann, was relatively unknown until it was sung by the rebels in the GPO during the Easter rising in 1916 and later in the British internment camps. In 1934 Ireland acquired the copyright of the song for the amount of £1,200 (1523.69).

The national anthem is considered by nationalists as the national anthem of the 32 counties and it is sung at all GAA matches and other national functions. The first two lines are played together to form the Presidential Salute and this is played when the President of Ireland attends an official event. The song "Ireland's Call" which was composed by Phil Coulter is used by the Irish Rugby team.

There is a move afoot at the present time to replace the National Anthem with a new one. There is a feeling that the words are militant and anti-British. It has also been pointed out that the melody is difficult to play, sometimes the whole song has been played rather than the chorus, or that it has been played at the wrong tempo - this has happened at recent Olympic games.

While most of Ireland's troubles in the last number of years have been connected with the dividing of our island into 26 counties of the Republic and the six counties of Northern Ireland, which are still under British rule, strange as it may seem, 32 counties were selected and named by the British Government as far back as the early 13th century. In the year 1210, King John of England established the 12 counties of Dublin, Meath, Louth, Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary. During the reign of Queen Mary in the 16th century, the Queen's County (now Laois) and the King's county (now Offaly) were formed. About the middle of the 16th century, Sir Henry Sidney formed Longford and the counties of Galway, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim and Clare.

Clare was later included in the Munster province. Around the year 1584 the Lord Deputy, Sir John Perrot formed the seven counties of Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone, Donegal, Fermanagh, Cavan and Coleraine, which was later to be called Co. Derry. The other two counties Antrim and Down were already in existence. All of these total 30 counties and during the reign of King Henry VIII, Co. Meath was divided into two - Meath and Co. Westmeath.

Wicklow (Ireland's youngest county) was formed in 1665 by SIr Arthur Chichester who took parts of Co. Dublin, Co. Kildare, Co. Carlow, and Co. Wexford to form this new county. This gives us the present 32 counties of Ireland. In the parish of Donegal, counties Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford meet with roughly 9,000 acres of the parish in each county.

At present, Ireland is a country containing two National Anthems and it is the ardent hope of most nationalists that she well end up as one united country with one National Anthem.

Courtesy of Willie White and The Carlow Nationalist