Ciarán Murphy, ex-political prisoner, singer-songwriter and one man acoustic hand grenade from West Belfast. A protest singer in the finest Irish tradition and politically as sharp as a syringe needle hanging on razor wire. On this his debut album, available as a digital download for the very first time, he points out the often ugly truths of Irish life, asks difficult questions and never once pulls his punches.
Ciarán Murphy seemed to come out of nowhere for us. One day on MySpace (remember that?!?!?) a long, long time ago I came across a few songs of his and its fair to say he fair done blew my mind. Having got a wee bit bored of hearing the same songs over and over again here was passionate, modern day, Irish rebel music with punk swagger and attitude that did all the things that good music is suppose to do. To educate, to inspire, to encourage, to dream. What was not to love? Later that year he went on to play the very first London Celtic Punks organised gig and it’s fair to say he stole the show and on top of that he was, as we say in London, a diamond geezer.
In these days of relative calm in the north-eastern section of Ireland the Police Service of Northern Ireland proudly claims to be ‘Making Northern Ireland Safer’. They’ll have you believe that they’ve moved on from the notorious days of the B-Specials and Royal Ulster Constabulary. The residents and Ciarán Murphy know differently and Once Upon A Time In Ireland opens with a angry blistering attack on Northern Ireland’s police force that is more punk rock than any punk song I ever heard.
“And they’re still a rich man’s police force,
they serve a rich man’s state.
They’ll baton charge the workers on the orders of the great,
they’ll use their fathers’ weapons to move against the free.
They’ll always be the RUC to me”
Armed only with an acoustic guitar, Ciarán comes across sometimes as a one-man punk army. His songs cover a multitude of topics relating to life in modern day Ireland (and to that north-eastern bit in particular). ‘A Word to the New Irish Racist’ damns those Irish people who suffered racist attitudes from British imperialists for decades, and who themselves now target new arrivals into Ireland:
“And every one of us were immigrants in our own time
And every patriot knows Irish is a state of mind
But you’re blind”
Ciarán understands because he comes from the same class as those left with no other option to survive than to leave Ireland in search of work over the years. Brilliant sentiments that could just as easily apply to any nation on the planet as to the Irish. Ciarán Murphy plays with such fury and ferocity that it’s no surprise he needs a box of plasters at the ready for when he leaves the stage. But folkies relax it’s not all full-on acoustic thrash, though. Some of the more impressive moments happen when the guitar assault slows down a little. Check out the gorgeous multi-tracked guitars on ‘Rebel Song’, while Ciarán spins a tale about a would-be revolutionary/terrorist having second thoughts while on the way to an attack. An amazing song that reminds us of the very real price that these soldiers paid for the cause.
(Ciarán playing live for London Celtic Punks in North London)
On ‘Che Guevara T-Shirts’ Ciarán takes aim at modern day politics and its clear here he foresaw the rise of the poison of identity politics. Divide and rule was once the tactic the state used to keep the left divided. Now its the ‘left’ that use it. He never leaves you unsure of where he stands. After all you get splinters in yer arse from sitting on the fence! The guitar picking on ‘You Cried for Ten Men Dead’ is simply outstanding. This track never fails to leave me in tears, as Ciaran sings to his father about the impact of Ireland’s struggle on the old man. From fighting for Great Britain in World War II, to joining a revolutionary army in Ireland, to crying for the ten hunger strikers who died in the Maze prison in 1981. The old man fell under the spell of whiskey and was unable to keep it together. Simply breathtaking. Played from the heart it’s followed by ‘State Of The Nation’ my favourite here where again modern day Irish politics is chastised.
“Kieran Doherty died as Irish TD (MP)
and not a word of condolence was passed
but for Lady Diana they lowered the flag to half mast.
Yeah they lowered our flag to half mast
so who’s taking us back to the past?”
The Irish government, so desperate to suck up to both the UK and the USA, are even willing to destroy national monuments to accommodate foreign interests and to degrade the ideals of the men whose acts they use to push an agenda these men fought (and many died) against. They have betrayed the people of Ireland but as a great man once said “our revenge will be the laughter of our children”.
‘Michael McIlveen’ is the tragic tale of a young 15-year old Catholic boy beaten to death on the streets of the north-eastern Irish town of Ballymena in 2006 by a Protestant gang. The teenager, known as ‘Mickeybo’ to his friends, was beaten with a baseball bat and kicked around 60 times in an alley after simply visiting a pizza shop. Ciarán reaches out to the Protestant community to remind them that some of the most revered and respected Irish revolutionary heroes have come from the Protestant faith.
Mickeybo 1991-2006 qui tacet consentire vidétur
‘Nine hours’ is again an incredible song where Ciaran, in jail for Republican activities, is given nine hours compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his father. During the song Ciarán recalls childhood fishing trips with his Da and the history he taught him of the places they visited while he follows his Dads coffin in utter personal agony, regretting years of non contact. Nine hours later that day a steel door slams shut and that’s fucking it.
“I never thought that things would end like this,
not in my wildest dreams.
But life is cruel and sometimes twisted,
like their judges and it seems.
that nothing here is sacred and I know what that means.”
A song that will take your breathe away the beauty and sadness of it. On ‘Catholic Guilt’ Ciarán ponders his youth and faith and what the future will bring. The album is drawing to a close and ‘I Feel The Eyes Of British Spies’ is all about the very real technological war Britain declared on Republican communities but told with a sly humour and twinkling eye. The title track closes the album, with its multi-tracked guitar and one of Ciarán Murphy’s strongest vocal efforts. The song tells of Murphy’s quest for that elusive ‘once upon a time in Ireland’, of trying to come to terms with Ireland’s real and mythological past, and sifting through it all to find lessons that apply to Ireland today.
AVAILABLE TILL THE END OF THE MONTH FOR JUST £5
While Ciarán Murphy’s 2008 debut release, The Verbal Hand Grenade EP, was a solid release, this one showed Ciarán had made infinite progress. Each song features just acoustic guitar and voice, but Ciarán creates so many different textures that no two songs sound alike. The beauty of the folk tradition – and it applies equally in punk rock – is that anybody can pick up an instrument and play the songs that strike a chord in them. We are almost a decade later yet Ciarán Murphy’s songs still need to be heard, and they need to be sung. In my opinion they are right up there with the songs of MacGowan, Kelly, Drew, Moore. You may think that’s an exaggeration, but hear this album and I’m sure you’ll agree. Sadly Ciarán has retired from the music scene and no amount of cajoling it seems (and we have tried, oh have we tried and tried!!!) will bring him back to the stage. That is a great shame as Ireland is in desperate need of its poets. There was a very good reason the British use to execute them you know.
Previously only available on CD, this, Once Upon A Time In Ireland is now available via the London Celtic Punks Bandcamp page for digital download. A huge thanks to Ciarán for allowing us to organise this. It was our pleasure Pip! Coming soon for first time as a digital download Ciarán’s debut release, Verbal Hand Grenade. Watch this space.
(you can hear the album for free here on the Bandcamp player)
JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2
Every single penny raised from this album goes directly to the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. For Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, who were unjustly convicted of the murder of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll and sentenced to life imprisonment. The London Celtic Punks believe the case was corrupt and the ‘evidence’ inconclusive, contradictory and discredited. Both these poor guys find themselves victims of a system that sought to find suitable scapegoats in the wake of the political and media backlash following the killing. Over on our Bandcamp page you will find a bunch of downloads available mostly for donation. All the money goes to the Campaign and helps pay legal fees and to aid Brendan and John Paul’s families. You can make a real difference. Please send all donations to firstname.lastname@example.org
thanks to Andy in NSW for help
Tagged: Ciaran Murphy