A rare political statement from Paul.
Wiki: “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” is a song written by Paul and Linda McCartney in response to the events of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland on 30 January 1972. Recorded on 1 February 1972 at Abbey Road, in London, it was released as Wings‘ debut single on 25 February 1972 in the UK, and a few days later in the US. It was the first recorded song by the band to include Irish guitarist Henry McCullough. A rehearsal of the band playing the song was filmed.
It was completely banned from media exposure in the United Kingdom, being banned by the BBC, Radio Luxembourg and the Independent Television Authority. On the BBC Radio 1 chart show Pick of the Pops, Alan Freeman had to refer to it as “a record by the group Wings”.
“From our point of view,” said Paul McCartney, “it was the first time people questioned what we were doing in Ireland. It was so shocking. I wrote ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’, we recorded it and I was promptly ‘phoned by the Chairman of EMI, Sir Joseph Lockwood, explaining that they wouldn’t release it. He thought it was too inflammatory. I told him that I felt strongly about it and they had to release it. He said, ‘Well it’ll be banned’, and of course it was. I knew ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ wasn’t an easy route, but it just seemed to me to be the time. All of us in Wings felt the same about it. But Henry McCullough‘s brother who lived in Northern Ireland was beaten up because of it. The thugs found out that Henry was in Wings.”
youtube: In February 1972, Paul McCartney released a song with his new band Wings that caused a storm of controversy and was promptly banned as “unsuitable for broadcasting”.
The song Give Ireland Back to the Irish was McCartney’s reaction to the events of Bloody Sunday just weeks before, in which 13 protesters were killed (a 14th person later died in hospital) by British soldiers in Northern Ireland.
Many were surprised that McCartney had entered the debate. Until then the former Beatle had avoided overt political activism and was widely regarded as a congenial sheep farmer. Some dismissed it as a cynical attempt by McCartney to prop up a flagging post-Beatles career.
What motivated McCartney?
But Stuart Maconie, who discusses Give Ireland Back to the Irish on The People’s Songs on Radio 2, believes it was a natural response to events in Northern Ireland.
“I think, like many people, he was simply horrified by Bloody Sunday,” says Maconie. “And as a child of the huge Irish diaspora in the North West of England, he felt it even more keenly.
“I don’t believe he was trying to ‘outdo’ Lennon. I think he was utterly sincere and it was a very brave move.”McCartney’s former bandmate John Lennon, who had Irish heritage, had been increasingly politically active and appeared at a New York protest against the British Army’s presence in Northern Ireland.
Eamonn McCann, a veteran journalist and political activist from Londonderry, believes that while McCartney probably had genuine reasons for writing this song, the ‘Irish question’ was a convenient one for musicians to associate themselves with for publicity.