Wolfe Tones frontman Brian Warfield has rejected criticism of their set at Belfast's Féile an Phobail festival over the weekend.
Some concert-goers sang 'Oh, ah, up the Ra' to the band's song 'Celtic Symphony' when they performed on Sunday.
Brading it an "annual hatefest", DUP Stormont representative Emma Little-Pengelly suggested: "It is no victory or progress to replace sectarianism with sectarianism."
A final weekend drenched in squalid, vile sectarianism. Divisive, hurtful, with glorifying of terrorism. This isn't progress- it is the shame of Belfast. There must, must be those who support the festival who are embarrassed by this cringe sectarian ending every year? 🤷 #Féile
— Emma Little-Pengelly BL (@little_pengelly) August 13, 2023
The Belfast News Letter Editor Ben Lowry told The Hard Shoulder there is a massive softening of attitudes.
"We think that the IRA campaign is being rapidly sanitised, and we think that the British security forces are being rapidly demonised in order, retrospectively, to justify IRA terrorism," he said.
"What you're now seeing is very large numbers of nationalists.... [are] agreeing with Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Féin that IRA violence was necessary".
Mr Warfield said there is silence when loyalist bonfires are lit every July.
"[They are] burning whole forests of wood at a time when global warming is around, that should be criticised, just as they're criticising one song out of a whole evening of two and a half hours," he said.
"We don't encourage chanting, it's not chanting, but the crowd sing along with every song that we sing."
Mr Warfield said this is picking out one song that you don't agree with "out of two and a half hours."
"You've got to understand that the IRA were seen by the nationalist communities as defenders of their communities when unionist violence was burning people out of streets... when refugees were running south because they had no peace in their own country, when they were being discriminated, gerrymandered in every way - and there was great silence about that.
"It took a long time for unionits or the people to understand that it was totally wrong to discriminate against their fellow citizens".
Mr Lowry said a closer relationship between communities could be difficult.
"Is it the worst thing that could happen? Of course it isn't," he said.
"It's not as bad as if there was disorder or all sorts of things.
"What's different about this is the casual bringing in of the idea that the IRA was necessary.
"Did loyalists and unionists do things wrong? Of course they did, terrible things wrong.
"But the people on behalf of whom the violence was purporting to be carried out didn't want it - and that's what's so disturbing about the casual bringing in to a longer evening that's about much more than IRA violence.
"Is this the way nationalist Ireland is going?"
'A story about Glasgow Celtic'
Mr Warfield said criticising a song is not the answer.
"That song was written not as a defence of the IRA or anything like that," he said.
"It was a story about Glasgow Celtic, it was a story about the Irish in Glasgow.
"As I went through that city I'm looking at the graffiti on the wall and I see 'Up the Celts, up the Celts' and I see underneath it 'Oh, ah, up the Ra'.
"If they felt the need to support the IRA in their long struggle in Ireland for any kind of civil rights... they have supported Ireland in every decade going back to 1798.
"Remember: if I go through the Shankill Road all I see is 'King Billy' and I'd see UVF, UFF and all kinds of things.
"They were murderers of the nationalist people.
"We can go back a long time and go over old ground, but you can't criticise that song," he added.
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