Emerald Heritage | What is Ireland's National Anthem?
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What is Ireland's National Anthem?

For some a national anthem can represent the very fabric of the country they hold so dear, yet for others it can mean little. 

Ireland, and her people, has a similar relationship and connection with their national anthem.

Some claim the anthem as an important piece of culture and heritage whilst others are open to change and review.

Ireland's National Anthem

Ireland’s national anthem is known as Amhrán na bhFiann or, in English, “The Soldier’s Song”.

As you can maybe guess from the title, it has a distinctive history…

Cropped Irish Flag

The Soldier's Song

Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney wrote “The Soldier’s Song” between late 1909 and early 1910 and it’s said that many of the lyrics were composed at the Swiss Café on the corner of O’Connell Street and North Earl Street.

The song quickly became popular amongst Irish Volunteers and army battalions and was famously sung by rebels during their 1916 Easter Rising standoff in Dublin’s General Post Office.

From there it became an unofficial anthem of the people but a groundswell of support began to form during the mid and late 1920s.

Public use of the song became more frequent, Irish foreign diplomats began to request it when abroad and, in 1928, the then director of the Irish army band, Colonel Fritz Base, took things a step further by composing a chorus arrangement that became even more popular and is still used to this day.

There was some reluctance, which still stands today for some, due to the militaristic nature of the song. Many in Ireland view themselves as a peaceful nation and as such the song can seem outdated or inappropriate.    

However, despite these reservations, the song slowly ebbed its way into Irish life and quietly became the de-facto national anthem of choice. Radio Eireann began to play it from 1926 onwards and cinemas and theatres used it widely right up to the 1970s.

After that, for better or worse, it was Ireland’s national anthem and has been ever since. 

Notable Favourites

Due to the confusion and, in some cases, reluctance to initially claim The Soldier’s Song as a national anthem other songs came to be used from time to time.

Notable favourites throughout various parts of the 20th century included “Let Erin Remember”, “God Save Ireland” and “A Nation Once Again”.

Another favourite, still sung proudly at large gatherings such as huge sporting occasions, is “The Fields of Athenry”. 

This melancholic ballad, written by Pete St John in the 1970s, tells the tale of a young man named Michael from Athenry, County Galway, during The Great Hunger of the mid-19th century. Unfortunately young Michael, in a bid to save his family, is caught stealing food and is deported to Australia as punishment.

The sad, sorry tale struck a chord with many in the country and is particularly popular amongst GAA fans throughout the counties.


So, now you know the recent history behind Ireland’s national anthem.

You can thank us later when you shout out the correct answer at a future pub quiz…

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