Written Answers - National Anthem

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 753 No. 2

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  150.  Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan  Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan   asked the Minister for Finance  Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan   his views on whether the use of the phrase “Sinne fianna fáil”, translated from Liam Ó Rinn’s version of the national anthem, should be re-translated in order for it not to reflect a particular political party name; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5556/12]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  In response to the Deputy’s question, I have previously provided a response to a question put down by the Deputy on 11 May 2011 (ref: 10806/11) in relation to the translated version of the National Anthem that is commonly in use today. In that response I referred to an article that was written by Ms Ruth Sherry, Professor of English in the University of Trondheim in Norway entitled “The Story of the National Anthem”. The article appeared in the publication, History Ireland, in Spring 1996.

In her article Ms Sherry makes the point that the Irish translation which became generally known and used was written perhaps as early as 1917 by Liam Ó Rinn, who later became Chief Translator to the Oireachtas. He translated the first line of the chorus, ‘Soldiers are we, whose lives are pledged to Ireland’ as “Sinne fianna fail, atá fá gheall ag Éireann’’. A copy of the article can be found on the following website: http://www.historyireland.com/ volumes/volume4/issue1/features/?id=113150.

Included in the article, it states that “(Liam) Ó Rinn translated the first line of the chorus, ‘Soldiers are we, whose lives are pledged to Ireland’, as ‘Sinne fianna fáil, atá fá gheall ag Éirinn’.” Before the Treaty, the Volunteers had identified themselves in Irish as descendants of Finn Mac Cool’s warriors, the Fianna, and Inis Fáil was believed to be an old name for Ireland: hence ‘Fianna Fáil, the Soldiers of Ireland’. The Volunteers wore insignia incorporating the letters FF. These insignia were carried over and used by the National Army after the establishment of the Free State, and are still used on army uniforms today. Thus Ó Rinn’s rendering of Kearney’s ‘soldiers’ as ‘fianna fáil’ is an apt reference to the group which adopted the song, and, in the context of the early publication of his translation in An tOglach in 1923, the first line constitutes a reference to the continuity between the Volunteers and the Free State army.

This translation was made well before Éamon de Valera’s founding in 1926 of the political party which was also given the name Fianna Fáil. This shows that there is no reflection to a political party name in the translation version of the National Anthem.


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