“Celtic Symphony” by The Wolfe Tones

“Celtic Symphony” was written in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Celtic Football Club. In other words, this is a soccer song. 

But it is also one that was composed by a group of Irish traditionalists who accordingly, based on the lyrics, also read as if they are nationalists. As such, there is also a political theme present in the Celtic Symphony, which is more or less a standard feature as far as these European football tunes go.

That is to say that the people who put these types of pieces together often use aspects of their respective national histories/identities to encourage their sports teams to win.

Key Narrative

That said, the main narrative permeating throughout this piece is pretty out there, i.e. being centered on the vocalist interacting with “the devil”. There’s a lot of rhetoric and metaphorical language being tossed about. 

But what it is all seemingly meant to point to is a notion like the Irish being a wild lot themselves, though not like in an evil sort of way – or something like that. That is to say that whereas the devil is present in this story, the vocalist may have a relationship with him but ultimately resists his wiles. 

There’s also a mention of “paradise”, though it has been ascertained that said Paradise is actually a nickname for Celtic Park, i.e. where the Celtic Football Club plays. 

So ultimately, the lyrics come off as if they are speaking to the toughness and overall proficiency of the Celtic, i.e. Irish, people and by extension their team.

And as far as the political aspect of this song goes, yes, there is a shoutout to an organization known as the Provisional IRA found herein. All things considered, that would be the vocalist’s way of letting listeners know that he also supports Irish independence. 

But concluding that “Celtic Symphony” is actually political in nature would be a stretch. More obviously, it refers to the strength of a people who obviously have a high degree of national pride.

Wolfe Tones, "Celtic Symphony" Lyrics

Release of “Celtic Symphony”

“Celtic Symphony” is a song that originally came out sometime around the late 1980s. It was released via The Wolfe Tones, a band of Irish traditional musicians.

The Wolfe Tones

At the time this song came out the band consisted of these musicians:

  • Noel Nagle
  • Tommy Byrne
  • Brian Warfield
  • Derek Warfield

The band currently appear to be perennially popular in Ireland. They were really popular during the 1980s, the decade in which most of their hits were dropped.

Success of “Celtic Symphony”

The reason we’re writing about this song today – in late 2022 over 30 years after its issuance – is because concurrently “Celtic Symphony” went viral. It surprisingly topped the Irish iTunes listing. This is in addition to the song reaching second place in the UK. 

This is the direct result of some unintentional virality on the part of Ireland’s women’s soccer squad and the ever-complicated world of British politics.

What happened is that The Girls in Green, as they are called, won a big match against neighboring Scotland. This was a match which qualified them for the FIFA Women’s World Cup of 2023.

After said victory, they were rocking to “Celtic Symphony” in celebration in their locker room. In the process of celebration, they went about reciting the line “oh ah up the ‘RA”. This is a prominent line featured in “Celtic Symphony”. Said line is actually a shoutout to the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Many readers may be more familiar with this group via their more-general moniker, the IRA.


The IRA is considered by many to be a terrorist organization. The group’s primary cause is the complete Irish independence from the British. However, they have never attacked Scotland, which is also part of the UK. This is seemingly due to the fact that as with the Irish, certain Scottish are also considered “Celtic”. 

That said – for whatever reasons – after a video clip of the aforementioned celebration started trending, the Scottish team were somehow offended (even though the match was in fact held in Ireland). At the end of the day, it all somehow degenerated into an international controversy. 

As such, the manager of the Irish team, Vera Pauw, made a public apology on behalf of herself and her players. But that apparently was not enough. And why? This is because Police Scotland launched investigations into the matter. The Union of European Federal Associations (UEFA) also followed suit.

But the fact that this song has now blown up on iTunes illustrates that not everyone is against The Girls in Green. And that includes their countryman, MMA champ Conor McGregor. Conor actually shared a video of the squad singing “Celtic Symphony”.

9 Responses

  1. Rob .b says:

    Good on the girls in green when they come to play the World Cup here in Australia we will be there singing The Celtic Symphony

    • Anonymous says:

      The line up the ra, in the song, is not a reference to the Provisional IRA, but the old IRA, the army which brought about the Republic, the army whose dead QEII laid a wreath to when she visited Dublin. It was song sung by Irish nationals, in their own country, which makes a reference to their own legitimate history. Noone bat’s an eyelid when the racist British national anthem is sung, or the Scottish rebel song Flower of Scotland.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Scottish people are celts

  3. Aisling C. says:

    I appreciate this grounded take on the situation, although I don’t think Conor McGregor “supporting the cause” is exactly a great measure of social or moral judgement, if anything he might hurt the case.

  4. Proud celt says:

    Does jeffry not use google?

  5. PROUD REBEL says:

    when we had no hope ,we had the RA. GOD bless THEM.

  6. beithíoch says:

    “Up the ra” is a sectarian chant in support of the Provisional IRA, simple as that. If you live in Northern Ireland you will know that.

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