Why the Tones must go on and why we must support them.

Ballad singers of old!  Not as good as the Tones!

by Brian Warfield

Have you ever asked yourself why the Wolfe Tones don’t get play on Radio or fair treatment in the press? We have been and are consistently one of the most popular bands in Ireland over a career spanning 38 years. We sold more records than U2 in the years 2001/2 and are more popular than ever with the young people of Ireland. We have, in my opinion, the best living Irish-ballad singer in Tommy Byrne and together with myself and Noel Nagle are one of the few true folk groups remaining in Ireland.

There is something wrong when the media goes to such great lengths to try to ignore the existence of the mighty Tones or when and if they do acknowledge them, they ridicule slag or devalue their contribution to our musical heritage. Is there begrudgery or jealousy out there or is it just that they want to brainwash the Irish people with music of little value or consequence to them? One can speculate the reasons why, i.e. to divert their attention from the story and music of their own land, perhaps to keep their attention away from England’s role in the impoverishment and division of our country.

 Most countries would be delighted to have a group of bards like the Tones. Many great journalists who held nationalist opinions were driven from the media, mainly to scare others from expressing Irish republican views. There were many disc-jockeys whose contract were not renewed. All these events conspired to the point ay which DJs were afraid to play the Tones and journalists were frightened to give a favourable report. Section 31 also scared DJs, and journalists, afraid of losing their jobs, shied away from the Tones. And so the Wolfe Tones were taboo, banned or blacklisted. In this manner the media, both radio and press was left in the hands of Anglophiles or those who were indifferent to Ireland, its music, or its heritage. This must change, and it will change because there are many wonderful journalists and D.J’s who have nothing but good will for Ireland its song and music.

I will give you an example of the skulduggery that went on over the years: It was popular for magazines and newspapers to hold poles of popularity. These were fine when they were held by open vote. They held them for best group, best song etc. The Wolfies always won at least in one or two of the categories. It must have annoyed somebody so they changed the system of voting and created a list of groups to vote from and guess what? It excludes the Wolfetones and their songs. If they don’t like the message why shoot the messenger. Just look at what happened this year when an open vote was held by the B.B.C world service for the best song ever in the world. The Wolfetones were returned at No 1 with “A Nation Once Again” beating the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Queen, U 2,Frank Sanatra, Bing Crosby and many of the top Asian Middle Eastern and African Musical entertainers.

Who owns Irish radio and why is it discriminatory towards the Wolfetones? Why don’t they give them fair play ? Their treatment by the radio stations is an example of blatant blacklisting. The popularity of the Wolfetones and their Irish ballads is well established. They have consistently sold records in high quantities and had numerous top twenty hits. So why the lack of airtime to correspond with this great success? Irish radio should reflect the music that is popular in the country. Instead it reflects the music that is popular in England or America. Why is this allowed to happen? They are our airwaves and should reflect our taste in music! Most other countries have a quota system to give a percentage to the national music and talent and to reflect the musical taste of their land. The pop stations tell us that Irish ballads are not suitable programming for their audience. We urge everyone to let them know this is wrong, let them know what you want, let them know you want to hear the Tones. See the list of email addresses for the radio stations in Ireland and abroad on the site.


  Ballad session in 1836



Thomas Davis -  writer of a nation once again     


Here is another example of the type of treatment dished out to the Tones in the Press in recent times.

There were some scurrilous articles written by what can only be termed Anglophiles in the press following the departure of Derek from the band. The first of these was by of the “ Ireland on Sunday” newspaper by a journalist that I not name here. The point of the article was to publicize our new CD at the time 'You'll Never Beat The Irish'. With this in mind we agreed to do an interview. The writer made snide remarks and skewed our answers to give her article a nasty slant and tried very hard to make us look bad. She mentioned the fact that we had "suntans" from our "many holidays" as if it was some kind of crime!! Do people not go on holidays to the sun anymore? Are we allowed them? The fact was we were just back from tour of the U.S. and had finished in Florida seemed to have alluded her. Then she sniped and jibed at the fact we had made money out of our profession! This remark was ridiculous. Is one not allowed to make a living these days?!! Every other group and singer does the same. We are professional musicians. We make our living in this fashion and indeed feel very privileged to have done so over the years.  Does she jibe about U2, Enya, Boyzone or Westlife for making money out of their profession? They make a lot more than we do and I don’t begrudge it to them as they deserve it. That is success. Of course we made money we worked very hard, toured constantly, travelled the world, and have been very successful professional and popular musicians over 38 years.  It seems as if she begrudges us our success. We have been great ambassadors for our country over the years. She mentioned the fact that we lived in houses in Kildare and Wicklow. Where would she like us to live in a tent on the side the road?!! I will the give the journalist in question one piece of credit though: She did interview us before writing the article!! If you want a laugh - she also described us as three middle aged Dockers!! I like that one.

The next article appeared in the Irish Times written by Fintan O’Toole. This man calls himself an intellectual because he says he lives by using his mind. I don’t doubt that, but the manner in which he uses it bothers me. He has attacked all our institutions and historic heroes and events. He ridiculed the commemoration and the reburial of Kevin Barry and his nine comrades who were honoured by our government with a state funeral. He tried to make a laugh of the wonderful monument in New York City to the victims of the Irish famine, the Irish Holocaust by trying to devalue its significance.

These were noble gestures by very sincere people, but all this man could do was to laugh, joke and mock at the memory of these unfortunate and courageous people. I would like to see him try it with a British war memorial or a Jewish holocaust commemoration. Would he get away with it?

 In his frenzy of attacks on Irish institutions his next victim was the Wolfe Tones. In an article entitled “Why the end of the Wolfe Tones is music to my ears”. This piece was poorly researched, badly written and full of inaccuracies. I can’t believe that what I thought was a quality newspaper would allow such a piece, and indeed, such poor journalism. None of the facts were checked and he never spoke to any member of the group. The public reaction to this article sparked a controversy first of all on the Joe Duffy show, 'Live Line'. I was invited to participate and could scarcely believe my ears during the course of the show. He used very dangerous language in as much that he accused us of been at least part responsible for over 3000 deaths in the North. I don’t know how he comes to this conclusion but this is the kind of talk that has caused many nationalist deaths over the years. By blaming people for murder he makes them targets for the loyalist murder squads. His one sided condemnation of the I.R.A. and nationalists while ignoring the State, and Unionist murders justifies the loyalist murderers to the point that they feel righteous in their campaign against Catholics. My point is simply this, nobody should condemn any side without referring to the wrongs of the other. I always thought that journalism was about providing balance to an argument. This man does not understand balance. In his article he displays his ignorance of Irish affairs. He changes the location of the Helicopter escape from Mountjoy prison in Dublin to the Crumlin Road in Belfast. He’s a bit of a Houdini. He says that Joe Mc Donnell was a convicted bomber - this is another inaccuracy - he was actually caught in a car with Bobby Sands and two others and it was claimed by the R.U.C that a handgun was found with them in the car. So you think O'Toole would get it right before he puts his pen to paper. Possession of arms, a hand gun - perhaps planted there - was Joe Mc Donnell's only crime.

This debate grabbed the public attention and we were invited to a further debate with O’Toole on the Late Late show with Pat Kenny. Backed up by two other journalists planted in the audience with - shall we say - a less that balanced opinion, Ian Doherty of the Evening Herald and Michael Mc Cafferty of the Tribune who had contributed their bit to Wolftone bashing in recent articles.

The debate continued and I would have to say that they disgraced themselves in front of the nation. The majority of the audience in the studio and watching at home were gripped by the discussion. It was mentioned to us that Pat Kenny took a poll at the ad break after the debate. Posing the question as to whether they believed the Tones or O’Toole, in a show of hands by the studio audience, 90% voted for the group. The producer of the show told us that the reaction in our favour on the telephone and emails were unbelievable. It was one of the biggest responses to the Late Late Show since Pat took over from Gay Byrne. I’m sure you can get a copy of this show if you write to RTE. And see for yourself.

It is very sad that there are so many one sided Anglophiles now in our press. This I believe is a direct result of section 31 were this kind of journalism was rewarded. It needs to be addressed. We need to bring more balance to our media. It is not a crime to write something favourable about the W.T.’s or an Irish historic event or Irish hero.

The Irish nationalists, republicans, our history and heroes have been embarrassingly insulted in our press and media for long enough. These, what can only be described as racist, attitudes must come to an end. How can we accept the cultures and the diversities of others when we can’t even accept our own? We must be more considerate and sensitive to the majority in our land that holds these things sacred. The only way this will change is to let the media know when they are offending you or your beliefs. 

I responded to an article published in Kelly’s eye in the Irish Voice newspaper in N.Y. that echoed the article of O'Toole. I sent two copies, one to Niall O'Dowd, the Journalist, and the other to the editor. I have always admired the paper and the people involved with it, but I felt let down by the publication of the piece and, once again, the inaccuracies in it. I was asked why it took so long to respond and told by the editor that my piece was 'too long for publication' so I give it to you here in its entirety.


Brian Warfield


Kildress house

Pembroke Row

Lr Baggot St. Dublin 2


Re article in Kelly’s Eye for publication

A response from Brian Warfield of the Wolfetones for publication.

To the editor The Irish Voice,

                                                   I am amazed at the inaccuracies in the article published in your newspaper on wed. Jan.29th entitled Farewell to the Tones written by Kelly Fincham. The standard of journalism has reached an all time low with this poorly researched piece. She is hopping on a band- wagon started by the Anglophiles in Ireland who seem to get great enjoyment out of ridiculing and knocking all things Irish. The Wolfe Tones have been the targets of these people over the years and just recently after the rumour of their break up they became particularly active in the papers using  - as they thought - their demise as an opportunity to kick them once again.

She uses a type of language full of innuendos in connection with the Wolfetones that have no foundation of truth, like 'decommissioning' and 'assaulting our ears'. She says that we are a historical hangover banging on about the Brits. Just recently we had this argument on radio and on television at home in Ireland and the response to our position was almost totally in our favour. The 'Late Late Show' with Pat Kenny had one of its biggest audience responses ever.  It was very insulting of this so-called journalist to write this abusive article about our group after thirty-eight successful years without interviewing the group or checking her facts.  I’m amazed that she could not find one good thing to say about us. There is something wrong here.

She has obviously joined the ranks of the Anglophiles, who dislike the Wolfetones, their success and their music. These are the type of people who become vocal when a song, a movie or a book is released that tells the story of an Irish historical event or national hero? A hit record by us, a movie about Michael Collins or about Bloody Sunday are examples of subjects that drove them into the trenches in recent times They go crazy if it portrays England as it was the oppressor of the people in Ireland. They go to great lengths in the defence of English even to the point of blaming the Irish as the aggressor when they took arms to defend themselves. They have no balance in their arguments, are one sided bigots who get too much air space and press for their opinions which are not reflective of the vast amount of the Irish people

I have heard them use emotive language quoting the amount of people killed during the troubles by the I.R.A. while ignoring the British and Loyalist atrocities. They use this argument to paint and demonise anyone who has a nationalist opinion labelling them as terrorists or I.R.A. supporters when the real terror in Ireland was English misrule. They blame the reaction and not the cause, they play down events like the famine or Irish holocaust when millions of people lost their lives and their homes through hunger, disease, evictions and land clearances. They attack the Tones and regard the singing of an Irish historical event or a song commemorating an Irish hero as some kind of crime. They live under a cloud and have grown in the shadow and protection of section 31 brought in by Connor Cruise O’Brien a revisionist historian who is anti-nationalist. Because of this piece of discriminatory legislation they have used their pen and shouted their mouths off without opposition. They have attacked our heroes and our republican ideals and institutions freely while the opposing point of view was censored. They are determined to deny us our history.

Irish ballad music was played up to the time that section 31 was introduced and from then it was banned or blacklisted. When they stopped playing it on radio did the troubles stop? Some blame the singing of Irish songs as rabble rousing and the reasons for the troubles while ignoring the historic and political reasons that caused them. The Irish ballad tradition is reflective of the troubles and not the cause. It's a noble one and is highly valued by the Irish people - just look at the immense popularity of the Wolfetones over the years

The anglophiles of Ireland have tried unsuccessfully to place guilt on the Irish people for taking up arms to fight oppression while they ignored the forces of oppression. They try to place guilt on the Irish people who remember their heroes like the men of 1916, the Fenians, the Land League, Parnell and Collins while applauding the men who fought in other wars. Remember there were more Irish people killed fighting wars with the British army in their campaigns of empire building and colonisation across the world than there were in the entire struggle for Irish freedom or independence. God only knows who many were killed by British aggression and oppression in the world.

The Anglophiles echo the English rhetoric and propaganda calling the Irish heroes who fought for our freedom 'rebels', 'terrorists' and 'outlaws'. They uphold the rights of others in the world to fight for their rights while denying the Irish people their right to arms. They are like the Ostrich and don’t want to see or hear the truth and the story of their land. They want to pretend we have no past and that the history of Ireland started with the Celtic Tiger. Let me tell them there would be no Celtic Tiger but for the men who created the state by force, because England would never have reconciled Ireland peacefully - O’Connell and Parnell tried. Just look at Wales or Scotland have they a Celtic Tiger? 

These revisionists want to change the truth of the past to suit the present, to sanitize our history and to take away the trauma.  The famines, the terror, the invasions, land confiscations, the act of union and subsequent destruction of our industries, the impoverishment of our people, the forced emigration over the centuries were all fiction of some republican’s imagination.

When we tried to defend our own land they called it rebellion and those that fought were called traitors or felons such as Roger Casement and John Mitchell. They would have Irish history denuded of these great heroes if they have their way. They depoliticise the cause of Irish emigration. They believe that any one with a nationalistic point of view is an I.R.A. bomber and they refuse to recognise that nationalism is not exclusive to one group or one part of our country. 

They blame the troubles in the six counties on the Wolfetones while ignoring the fact that the misgovernment of England and its pandering to unionism was the cause. They forget about the civil rights movement, Ian Paisley, and the way the nationalist population were treated over the years - second-class citizens in their own land. They forget about internment, hunger-strikes, the miscarriages of justice, the deaths of children by rubber and plastic bullets and civil unrest. They condemn the Wolfetones while the watch in silence as children are persecuted on their way to school or are burnt out of their home. The ballad has told these stories when no other form of expression was available to the Irish people, when no other voice was heard in their defence. It is in many cases the only record of the Irish prospective of our historic events.  History is important it should not be changed or subdued, we should never be ruled by it, or afraid of it, but we must all learn from it. The same should be said for Irish balladry, its importance should not be undervalued. The ballad contains immense information of our past and it should be seen as an indispensable source to folklorists and historians.

Do they not realise that Men fought and died to give us the freedom of expression of things Irish and freedom of the press? Generations of Irish people dreamt of the day they could express their Irish point of view without looking over their shoulders at authorities that were ready to transport them or imprison them because of their opinions. There was no freedom of the press under British rule. They closed the Press of the United Irish movement. They shut down 'The Nation', 'The Felon' and 'Tribune' of the Young Irelanders. They did the same again in Fenian times and during the land wars. They slandered and ridiculed our leaders like O’Connell and Parnell to discredit them just as they do the Wolfetones. The history of suppression is there for all to see.

Are these people afraid or jealous of the Wolfetones??… is it because we have been and are still the most popular positive Irish folk group ever to come from Ireland? No one is forced to go to see us yet we pack every hall in every county. We have achieved our success without the benefit of proper airtime or fair press. Why do they begrudge us our success?  Maybe they would wish to return to the old times and British rule and transport us or maybe imprison us as criminals who started the troubles in the 6 counties?

Perhaps the writer of your article in 'Kelly's Eye' should learn a little of Ireland and its ballad tradition before she puts her pen to paper again. It was very poor journalism, badly researched and shoddily written.

Derek is no longer with the group but Tommy Byrne, Noel Nagle and myself will continue. To play, I hope - god willing - for some time to come. We have had a very successful CD out at Christmas called 'You’ll Never Beat The Irish' which achieved double platinum status over a period of three weeks, which is remarkable and not easily equalled.


I have a bit of sickening news for these brainless people who write these awful scurrilous vindictive articles  




Brian Warfield 

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