Blackballing The Druids

Tonight TPQ features an interview by John McDonagh with Mick O'Brien of The Druids, an Irish rebel band from Dublin, about the band being blackballed from gigs in Scotland by a group associated with Provisional Sinn Fein.  The interview featured on Radio Free Eireann WBAI 99.5 FM NY City Saturday 14 April 2012. Many thanks to TPQ's transcriber whose effforts are always appreciated.

John McDonagh (JM) interviews Mick O'Brien (MO) of The Druids

Eliza Butler (EB) comments.


JM:  And welcome back to Radio Free Eireann.  Everybody who's been listening for the past year or so know we've been featuring The Druids out of Wexford, and Dublin and Meath and all around. And the last time we left them was on Saint Patrick's Day where they were robbed down in Tompkins Square Park; car broken into and instruments gone!

And Eliza (Butler) said to me as she was talking to Mick O'Brien, one of the founders and lead singers in The Druids, she said “Mick, you're causing trouble everywhere you go!”  And I said, “No, no. They're causing trouble at places they're intending to go!  They're not even there yet and they're causing trouble!”  (all laugh)

I saw up on Facebook that The Druids now have lost a gig in Glasgow because a group over in Glasgow run by Provisional Sinn Fein has (been) trying to ban them from playing in Glasgow.

Mick, what exactly is going on and when were you heading to Glasgow?

MO:  What's going on is a very good question.  When were we heading to Glasgow?  We're due to sail out to Glasgow next Friday the 20th of April. 

And we are going.  We won't be stopped (from) going. As far as I know there is no legislation (scoffs) or no illegality of us traveling anywhere so we will go to Glasgow and we will go on Friday where we play in Port Hibs Hall in Port Glasgow on Friday night and we play in The Lancashire Hall in Glasgow on Saturday night, the 21st and that's for the Volunteer Brendan Hughes Republican Flute Band.

Now, we were supposed to play a gig on Sunday afternoon in a pub in Glasgow.  We booked the gig.  Actually the guy who runs the pub contacted us and booked us to play in the gig; we didn't go chasing it, he booked us. 

Everything was fine. 

And I got a call last night from him basically saying to me, and very sincere, and basically saying:  “Look Mick, I have to cancel you after getting a communication from a group called Cairde Na h√Čireann in Scotland basically saying to us that if we allow you to play in the pub that basically they will direct their people somewhere else.” 

In other words, he'll get no more customers. 

It's not his fault and I completely understand that as well.  He has to earn a living and we don't hold any grudges towards him whatsoever.

Now this goes back a good bit ago, John, where probably about two years ago we were contacted by Sinn Fein here in Ireland.  And we were contacted by a local representative here County Kildare and basically the communication was, as follows: saying to us that they had become aware that we were playing music and playing gigs for other Republican groupings, basically RSF, Republican Sinn Fein, and some other groupings as well and we were also playing at that time in The Players Lounge in Dublin, which was owned by John Stokes.  And basically the communication was that if we did not cease playing for them organisations and playing in that particular venue that we would go on a “banned list.” Now I don't mean a music “band list”  I mean a “banned” list...a blacklist.  And what appears to have happened is that has come to fruition... where we are now blacklisted.

JM:  And what is exactly this group? Who do they represent in Glasgow and where do they get their marching orders from?

MO:  My understanding is that the Cairde Na h√Čireann is affiliated to Sinn Fein; that's my understanding.  That basically they're either a sister organisation or supporters of Sinn Fein here in Ireland (Ed Note: Scotland).   I'm not too familiar with the group but I know there's a connection between them and Sinn Fein and the orders have come from Sinn Fein.   I'm under no illusion about that.

We were also playing in a pub in Belfast, although we haven't been officially told this, but I truly believe that the reason why we no longer play in that venue is because of the same reason: it's because we've been blacklisted by Sinn Fein.  This is absolutely and totally and utterly crazy, John.

Let me tell you this and I want to say this on the airwaves and I want to say it clearly: During the Presidential Election in Ireland, which was only what? a couple of months ago...we were the only band, we were the only band, The Druids Irish Rebel Band, were the only band that publicly supported the campaign of Martin McGuinness, right?  We had posters of Martin McGuinness at our gigs because he was the only alleged Republican that was standing for the Presidential Election.

JM:  (quips)  Alright, cancel your ticket to New York! Continue!  Go ahead... (both laugh)

MO:  For the previous election, the General Election in Ireland, because of the Republicans standing for elections in Ireland, the only people that you can vote for if you're a Republican is for Sinn Fein because no other ... like RSF ... don't run a candidate or any other Republican group.  So for the General Election a year ago, March a year ago, twelve months ago, we supported Martin Kelly, who ran here in Kildare, and we supported Jason Turner, who ran here in Kildare, for Sinn Fein as well.

Now my understanding, John, is that no other group, no other band has done that. But yet, Sinn Fein has us on this “banned list” which is absolutely ridiculous!

Our stance has always been very, very clear from the very beginning ... our stance has been that we are an Independent Republican band.  We play for everybody.

JM: And Mick, also you were up in County Tyrone playing for Gerry McGeough.  But also, I want to say the power that Provisional Sinn Fein do have in Glasgow particularly with the Republican pipe bands that come over and play at commemorations throughout Ireland.  Now this is a big deal for the bands in Glasgow. 

And I know how they work.  I know how they put “the arm” on because I was involved in organising things in Bundoran in County Donegal where they told the pipe bands in Glasgow: “You're not allowed to play at the hunger strike commemoration in Bundoran in Donegal”. 

I know the weight they carry in Glasgow.  They could go up to some of these pipe bands now, you're playing for the Brendan Hughes one in Glasgow, they say: “listen, if The Druids play for you, you're not going over to Ireland to play any of the commemorations that are coming up!” 

Which is a big deal for the bands in Glasgow.  It's a great week out for them. 

MO: It's absolutely crazy!  I had a communication today, just today I had a communication from somebody in Scotland over Facebook, right? Basically saying that we should not be talking about this on social media, or we should not be talking about this on the airwaves, that we should it to ourselves.  Well, I'm fed up with keeping this to myself.  Do you know what I mean? Absolutely fed up with this!  It's absolutely ridiculous!

If we do not have the freedom as a Republican music band to play for who we want and we're singing songs of freedom...that's a serious contradiction!  That's a serious contraction!  I'm not prepared to stand on the stage and do that.

JM: Well, Mick, we're gonna play a song right now... it's Bobby Sands poem...

EB:  Wait, John. Let’s just say:  If you guys want to see The Druids they will be coming over in September and want to pack the house.  They'll be playing Connolly's and we want to make sure and pack the house.  And I think you guys are coming over again in December.  So (for) people out there who want to support this band and what they're doing and what they're representing.

MO:  Thanks very much, Eliza. Could I just say that gig in Connolly's is a huge ordeal. It's a huge, big gig for us.  It's our biggest gig in New York to date and we are really, really looking to get a crowd in there.  It'll be absolutely brilliant! The fifteenth of September in Connolly's in Times Square.

JM:  Mick, maybe describe this next song which will not be heard at that bar next weekend in Glasgow but it'll be heard here in New York.   It's the Bobby Sands poem. 

MO:  When we were recording our album, (the) Starry Plough, we really wanted to include a poem, some of Bobby Sands' poetry, because his songs are known here in Ireland, like “Back Home in Derry” and “McIlhatton” and songs like that but his poetry, and everybody was aware that he was a poet and he wrote poetry, but very few people have heard it, so we really wanted to include something like that on the album.  So I picked out this piece called Weeping Winds which basically describes the conditions of the hunger strikers or of a prisoner locked up in Long Kesh. 

If you listen to it and listen to the sentiment in it - it's horrific – it's absolutely horrific! 

And if you try and get inside of what Bobby Sands was trying to put out and understand what he means ... I think he had a unique way of expressing himself through poetry.  I love it.  I absolutely love it!

This is called “The Weeping Wind”.

JM: Mick, we'll be in touch with you in Glasgow next week 'cause you'll have more of a firsthand account when you're in the city itself.

MO:  Absolutely!

JM:  Alright.

1:32 (Interview ends) The Druids song “The Weeping Wind” is played.


  1. Mick O'Brien [ MO- Druids ]

    " We were also playing at that time in the Players Lounge in Dublin- which was owned by John Stokes "-

    That must sound ok to the Druids-
    it must be political offence then, nothing to do with crime-
    The poor [poorer now] Druids say they are now a
    Black-ballad band- sorry, Blackballed one- some thing like that should not happen in music-

  2. The Cull has started, if your not in, You Can't win, so psf think. I wish the Druids would sing the song by the late Kathleen Largy, ONLY OUR RIVERS RUN FREE" , and dedicate it to PSF. It goes to show what grip they have , and , should not have. They are saying, "We Are Still Here" , I and everyone else knows they are still here, But my question is, WHY , they have been groomed by the brits, for the brits, and don't be surprised if you see Marty boy Mc Guinness shaking the british monarchs Hand and bowing his head, I don't think he will be asking when Marion , Gerry and Martin are going to be released.
    The Druids are a fantastic Band, FFS, they even had posters for Mc Guinness on his quest to become the Irish President at there gigs, and this is the thanks they get, just shows how low these pathetic morons in psf can crawl down to, right under the flattest stone like a worm. I would advise everyone to support the Druids, Just do a search on YouTube about them, I Listened to them do an Oration of the late Bobby sands poem , "The Weeping Winds" , it was fantastic. To the Druids i say, keep up the good work, you will get plenty of top notch gigs.

  3. Itsjustmacker,

    that is standard SF behaviour. Symptomatic of the totalitarian mind. They have always resorted to censorship and intimidation. I think it deeply instinctual with them by this stage.

  4. Agreed Anthony it is typical qsf tactics,I wonder was it one of Spikes pubs,Mickeyboy a cara you are the poorer for allowing yourself to sing only their praises,open your mind a cara before they steal whats left of it ..

  5. What I find so dispiriting about this is it its bourgeois politics to the core, Tammany Hall incarnate.

    Here we have Michael and many others believing, no hoping, SF is offering something new and when they behave like this, as they often do, all they are doing is aping FF in Dev's day and look where that miserable outfit ended up.

    A good pair of shoes they did not make.

    It made sense for the Provos to circle their wagons when they were at war, but today that is the exact opposite of what they should be doing.

  6. Interview on youtube at below link:

  7. So good....Sinn Fein had us censored.
    A title for your next album.

  8. @ Christopher Conley jr
    They are playing on
    The 15th of September in Connolly's in Times Square. Then they are back in December again for another Gig.

    @ michaelhenry.

    I get the impression you will be cheering when McGuinness is shaking the hand of the British Monarch now that he has been given approval to do so by SF, but, that's a joke they knew he was going to shake her hand, it was just a big hoax until the last minute, then announce it as being official ,also, for Adams to say, "This is a great day for Republicans" when the announcement was made, I cant fathom how you could even support such bile

  9. itsjustmacker-

    I will be doing no cheering- i have
    always opposed the crown on the Quill and i still oppose the crown-
    but i still Support Sinn Fein-
    I am not going to make a excuse here-but i am sure that Am will write a yarn about this- so i will wait till then-comments about Queenie are all over the place-lol-

  10. Michael

    Well, at least we think alike as to the Commander in chief of the British forces , whom are to this very day, stationed in one of our four provinces, "ULSTER".
    But as you say, I will also wait to see what AM has to say about this.
    To me, it is double standards.
    that's all i will say for now though , Awaiting for an AM comment, what do you think Marty?.

  11. Mick/Organised Rage

    ‘It made sense for the Provos to circle their wagons when they were at war, but today that is the exact opposite of what they should be doing.’

    The totalitarian mindset has never allowed for debate or discussion. The leadership decides and the rest must nod in approval. Even those within the Provo subculture who claim to be writers are guilty of suppressing other writers and alternative viewpoints. If you followed that discussion on the Guardian CIF yesterday and noted the calls for censorship of different view, you tend to getthe pint.

  12. Came home today to find the wife gone and a note pinned to the wall,it said "we have your wife if you want to see her alive we want £50k,do not contact the police ,we are very determined,await a phone call" they werent fuckin joking about being determined,I,ve had 36 missed calls from them now....

  13. This is mick here from the druids , I have had lots of feed back from this interview some not so good , but for the most part very positive,,, I main core of my feeling towards sinn Fein is one of disapointment , I have been on the side of Sinn Fein for years I have argued with people and have encaraged people to vote for them . I have have used the platform of the band to do the same. I could not belive this happened to us we are as republican as any other ,, My hero is james connolly i wounder how he would feel about this , he was a man who stood for freedom of choice and i think he would say the opressor also become oppressed along side the oppressed , as they miss out on a wider view of the situtaion. I wish them all well and let all work for a free ireland . what many many people have given their lifes and freedom for ... T A L Mick o brien

  14. Micko a hell of a lot of us have been shafted by Quisling $inn £ein and some have given their very lives, but those who run this party are the same people who allowed six brave men to needlessly die on hungerstrike,they have morphed into a modern version of the stickies who inturn morphed into a unionst party,the quislings in $inn £ein are almost there. dont loose any sleep over them they are a waste of space...

  15. Mick,

    as Marty suggests, we who have been around the block with SF unfortunately know the score and are not surprised at your experience. It is what they do. But you are always welcome to air your views here whatever they are. Good luck to you and don’t let the censors get you down!