National anthem should be taught in schools, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that Amhrán na bhFiann should be taught in schools and that pupils should learn the words of the national anthem, writes Juno McEnroe in Chicago.

His call, marking St Patrick’s Day celebrations this weekend, comes after a Seanad committee previously called for schools to decide policies on teaching the anthem.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during the Tourism Ireland Green Boat Trip on the Chicago river in Chicago. Picture: PA

Asked in Chicago on the weekend, while visiting the US for St Patrick’s Day celebrations, Mr Varadkar said he favoured some type of formal teaching about Amhrán na bhFiann.

“I think it would be a good idea for the national anthem to be taught in schools. It was actually taught to me when I was in primary school – whether it was mandatory or not I don’t know…I think that would be good.”

Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond has previously called for the national anthem to be compulsory in schools. He said that many Irish people did not know the words or the tune. Furthermore, he said that he was never taught the anthem in school but had learned it in Irish college in Donegal. He has suggested a phonetic approach, as well as teaching the historical and cultural context in which the song was written, could be introduced in a school’s curriculum.

The Seanad Public Consultation Committee on the anthem also previously suggested schools should improve the learning of it in Irish, English as well as in sign language.

Some opinion polls have found that only half of people know the words of Amhrán na bhFiann.

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Descendants of the authors of Amhrán na bhFiann previously expressed disappointment that the anthem would not be enshrined and protected in Irish law after the Seanad committee decided instead to introduce protocols or guidelines around its use.

The same committee proposed that primary and secondary schools should be provided with copies of the anthem.

Mr Varadkar said he favoured a relaxed approach about the teaching of the anthem in schools. He added: “I don’t think I would go down the american route, you know the pledge of allegiance at the start of the day, I’m not sure that would really fit in with the Irish culture.

“But the words of the national anthem – I think that is something every kid should learn in primary school.”

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