Paul McCartney’s ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ Was Banned by the BBC

Paul McCartney isn’t primarily known for writing political songs, however, the BBC banned Wings’ song “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” for its politics. Interestingly, Paul initially thought John Lennon was “crackers” for writing political songs. Here’s what Paul had to say about “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” — and how the world reacted to the song.

Paul McCartney near a drum
Paul McCartney | PA Images via Getty Images

Why Paul McCartney decided to go political with Wing’s ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’

For centuries, some Irish people have desired Ireland to be one republic free of British rule. This position is known as Irish republicanism. One of the most famous works of art to display Irish republican sentiment is Wing’s single “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.

While “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” deals with a political issue specific to one region, it still found at least some listeners in the United States. The track reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed on the chart for eight weeks. However, Rolling Stone’s Paul Gambaccini told Paul that Wings’ “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” was his first single in some time that didn’t sell well in the United States. 

Afterward, Paul discussed writing a song as politically charged as “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” “Before I did that, I always used to think, ‘God, John’s crackers, doing all these political songs,’” Paul said. “I understand he really feels deeply, you know. So do I.”

“Give Ireland Back to the Irish”

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Paul then discussed why he hadn’t really discussed social issues in his music before. “I hate all that [Richard] Nixon bit, all that Ireland bit, and oppression anywhere,” he said. “I think our mob do, our generation do hate that and wish it could be changed, but up until the actual time when the paratroopers went in and killed a few people, a bit like Kent State, the moment when it is actually there on the doorstep, I always used to think it’s still cool to not say anything about it, because it’s not going to sell anyway and no one’s gonna be interested.”

Paul McCartney on the response to Wings’ ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’

Paul decided to get political like John with “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” Afterward, Paul ruminated on the commercial performance of the song. “It was No. 1 in Ireland and, funnily enough, it was No. 1 in Spain, of all places,” he recalled. “I don’t think Franco could have understood.” For context, Generalissimo Francisco Franco was the fascist dictator of Spain at the time of the song’s release.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco wearing a hat
Generalissimo Francisco Franco | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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While “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” was a hit in Ireland and Spain, The New York Times reported the BBC banned the song. The BBC felt the song was too controversial for airplay. Regardless, the BBC reports the song reached No. 16 in the United Kingdom, showing Paul’s popularity transcended airplay.

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