‘Sometimes characters in songs have to be nasty’: Shane McGowan responds to Fairytale of New York controversy

The Pogues frontman Shane McGowan has responded to calls on social media for the lyrics of Christmas classic Fairytale of New York to be censored.

With the Christmas season in full swing, the hugely popular song has taken over the airwaves once again and a number of people took to social media to express their upset at the use of a gay slur in the song.

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RTÉ presenter Eoghan McDermott said in a tweet that there is “enough vitriol out there without gay people having to feel uncomfortable so people that aren’t affected by an insult can tap their toe”.

As the debate gained momentum this week, McGowan issued a statement to say that the word was included because it was fitting for the character saying that she is not supposed to be a nice person.

Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend!…not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively

McGowan said that he is “absolutely fine” with the word being ‘bleeped’ if people “don’t understand that I was trying to accurately portray the character”.

He said that it is not something he wants to get into an argument over.

This morning, Eoghan McDermott tweeted in an effort to put the matter to bed.

McDermott said that while he understands the dysfunctional characters radio stations censor words “all the time”.

“My point was we beep out relatively harmless swear words all the time on radio to appease literally everyone.”

So the idea of beeping one word on daytime radio didn’t seem so radical – given this particular word packs a lot of punch for many people and is used as a powerful slur outside the song.

The radio present added that RTÉ would continue to play the song as they always have.

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