Shane MacGowan responds to Fairytale of New York controversy: 'I'm absolutely fine with them bleeping the word'

Controversy around the use of the word 'faggot' in the song has rumbled on for years

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Friday 07 December 2018 10:36
Shane MacGowan discusses his song 'Fairytale of New York'

Shane MacGowan has issued a statement that could end the ongoing debate around The Pogues' Christmas song "Fairytale of New York".

Controversy has rumbled on for years over the song's use of the word "faggot", which is sung by the late Kirsty MacColl.

Many consider the use of the word offensive given its modern use as a homophobic slur. Others argue that the context of the song means the word should be interpreted as traditional Irish slang for a "lazy person".

MacGowan has now issued a statement to Virgin Media Television's The Tonight Show, in response to calls from two RTE 2FM DJs to have the word censored during airplay.

Presenter Eoghan McDermott took to Twitter this week to object to the word which he condemned as a “slur” and “insult”, while presenter Stephen Byrne revealed how he felt when he heard it played in a club, “I stood in a room as over 200 people screamed a word thats been used to make me feel like an outsider, with such joy and cheer”.

McGowan, who wrote the song in 1987, and who sang it with the late Kirsty MacColl, released a statement explaining why he included the word in the song.

“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character,” he wrote.

“She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate.”

He continued, “Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend! She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.”

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MacGowan went on to say that he does not want to get into an argument about the song and has no problem with it being censored during radio airplay.

“If people don't understand that I was trying to accurately portray the character as authentically as possible then I am absolutely fine with them bleeping the word but I don't want to get into an argument,” he concluded.

RTÉ yesterday confirmed that the song will continue to be played uncensored on RTE radio as it has for the past 30 years.

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