East Antrim Assemblyman Roy Beggs Jr. wrote to Aer Lingus about what he described as pro-terrorist songs being included in the trans-Atlantic in-flight entertainment.
Beggs and a colleague were traveling on a Dublin-to-Boston flight to speak at Harvard University when they noticed a channel dedicated to songs from ex-Wolfe Tones singer Derek Warfield.
“We were shocked that this so-called traditional singer’s repertoire was included in the in-flight entertainment of the Irish state airline,” Beggs said.
The songs which caused offence included “Ten Dead Men,” “Volunteers of Ireland,” “Patriots of Erin,” “Fenian Volunteers” and “Fighting Irish.”
“In this day and age when much is made of human rights and equality issues, we as British citizens were shocked to see this blatant promotion of militant, armed republicanism,” he said.
Beggs complained to the airline about the songs and asked them to remove the offensive material. A spokesperson for Aer Lingus confirmed that the songs had been played as part of the in-flight entertainment but had been removed.
“We did receive a couple of complaints regarding the Derek Warfield songs but we had already initiated action to remove it from the program,” she said.
Beggs said he was pleased with this response but reiterated that he found it amazing that Aer Lingus had made such a mistake in the first place.
“Considering this was a trans-Atlantic flight to America and one remembers what happened on 9/11 and that the USA and its allies have declared a ‘War on Terror,’ then this mistake is completely inexcusable,” he said.
On returning home, Beggs wrote to the chief executive of Aer Lingus, Willie Walsh, demanding the removal of the material.
The reply, from Walsh’s office, stated: “It is certainly not our intention to cause offense to any of our passengers. On behalf of Aer Lingus, I apologize for any upset this caused you. It became clear to us that some of our customers could find some songs on this particular channel inappropriate and, for this reason, the channel was replaced earlier this month.”
Speaking from his home in County Kildare on Monday, Derek Warfield said he regretted the airline’s decision. “I wouldn’t apologize for any of the lyrics. Ballads are part of our patriotic expression,” he said.
“My music has been on Aer Lingus for four years and I have had nothing but compliments. That man could just as easily have complained about the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ “
Last year, “A Nation Once Again,” as recorded by Warfield and the Wolfe Tones, was voted the world’s top tune in a BBC World Service poll.