Messages posted on bulletin boards on websites and e-mailed to friends urged Irish people to vote in the online poll for the song that has been an anthem for a united Ireland since it was recorded in 1964. Thomas Osbourne Davis wrote the lyrics in the 1840s.
On the BBC website, users were urged to select their favorite song, name the artists and give a reason for choosing the song. Many Irish people wrote “800 years of oppression” as their reason.
The result is an example of how the Internet can disseminate information and cause large groups of people to act in concert to sway polls or spread information.
At the Irish community website, Emigrant.ie, one user, known as “Erin Kelly,” wrote: “The BBC are at it again — this time, however, they’re asking everyone to vote for their favorite song of all time. So obviously we’re going to try and mess it up for them. Please take a minute and go to the website and enter your details.”
Members of the Wolfe Tones, which split earlier this year, said they were “thrilled” by the news. The Beatles failed to make the top 10 despite 55 different song nominations.
“We didn’t expect this at all and we can’t quite believe it,” said former band member Derek Warfield without a hint of irony. “To be voted ahead of the Beatles is quite an achievement. We haven’t had quite the same global profile as they had. There is a big Irish connection right around the world and they seem to have organized a good little campaign.”
Nearly 150,000 votes were received from 153 countries, nominating more than 6,500 songs.
David Stead is the BBC World Service’s 70th anniversary project editor.
“This is a unique chart, for the first time we’ve been able to see how bands like the Beatles, which traditionally do well in these polls, measure up against other forms of world music,” he said.
The BBC did not speak about the fact that the poll may have been influenced, but did comment cryptically: “The poll had to deal with people trying to influence the vote through fan sites and spamming.”
The BBC’s World Service broadcasts to an enormous audience worldwide, and many of the songs in the top 10 were Indian and Pakistani hits unknown in the West.
“A Nation Once Again” easily beat Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was No. 10, and also a snappily titled Asian hit, “Reetu haruma timi hariyali basant hau nadihruma timi pabitra ganga hau,” which was seventh.
Another user on the Emigrant website wrote: “The choice of song is somewhat unfortunate; a Daniel O’Donnell tune would be much more in line for a trivial poll rather than a nationalist rebel song.”
Eamon McCann, the veteran Derry socialist and writer, responded to an email request for his vote with a reply to all those on the same list as him that it smacked of sectarianism and asked if people didn’t have better things to do?