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Abair Amhrán Agóide

This programme won first prize in the newly introduced competition for a radio programme in the [1971] Oireachtas.

It arose out of contact with both the Irish and Welsh language scenes in the respective countries. At that time, there was an emerging protest song movement in both areas, linked to the language movements but stretching into a wider social and environmental area. It was more developed in Wales where it was an intrinsic part of the Welsh language campaign which was adopting a widespread programme of civil disobedience in favour of equal status for Welsh with English. The main mover in Wales was Dafydd Iwan who wrote and sang his own songs. Other Welsh politically aware artists such as Huw Jones and Meic Stevens added impetus to the movement which had its own record company, Sain.

Ireland had traditionally protested through a wide repertoire of rebel songs. These had tended to be backward looking, ultra nationalist and sung by people who, in the main, were armchair rebels. That is until the "Troubles" broke out in Northern Ireland. This gave such an edge to the existing rebel songs that the armchair rebels stopped singing them and they became the virtual property of the IRA. At the same time new rebel songs, such as "The Men Behind the Wire" were emerging up North. In general, these new songs revolved around the armed struggle and were more in the class of rebel, rather than what we understand by protest, songs.

Nevertheless there was one group emerging in the South who were singing a range of newly composed protest songs revolving around the language, the environment, the Roman Catholic Church and the European Economic Community (the Common Market). These were a trio who called themselves "Na hUaisle", a name which was a satirical dig in itself.

I had an interest in radio and in the Irish and Welsh language movements at the time and thought that it would be worth doing a radio programme comparing trends in protest songs in Wales and in the South. Conveniently, Oireachtas na Gaeilge introduced a new competition for a radio programme in [1971] and Abair Amhrán Agóide (Sing a Protest Song) was born. It concentrated on content as sound quality was not its strongest point, though it probably wasn't too bad for a front sitting room and the amateur equipment of the day.

Thanks go to Na hUaisle for their cooperation and patience in making the programme and to Nora in particular for a commentary excellently delivered and also for the loan of her parents' sitting room as a recording studio.

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