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More to Ireland den dis? Alan Partridge 'Men Behind the Wire' clip prompts amusement, bemusement

Viewers’ jaws may have dropped a little when the songs were aired – but a joke’s a joke right? Hopefully.

TWITTER WAS AWASH with people predicting a furious response to the airing of republican anthems like The Men Behind the Wire on an episode of the latest Alan Partridge series last night. 

Fast forward to this afternoon though, and we’re still awaiting any substantial fury. 

So far, the most noteworthy tweet on the affair has come from an Ian Paisley parody account (above) known for its regular satirical DUP-esque posts about, for instance, ‘Londonderry Girls’. 

If you haven’t caught it yet and are wondering what all the fuss is about, the sequence in question plays out at the end of the show Partridge is presenting. An Irish farmer/folk singer, also played by Partridge creator Steve Coogan, hijacks the remaining airtime and proceeds to belt out an unrelenting medley of increasingly controversial ballads. 

The initial social media response may have simply been a kind of instinctual shock response at the fact that a song like Men Behind the Wire – written in the aftermath of internment in the early 1970s – was being sung on primetime BBC. 

‘More to Ireland den dis’ 

Respondents to those initial tweets were quick to point out that Coogan has Irish roots, and a pretty spot-on record in terms of his handling of matters pertaining to Ireland.

His best known creation – an unimaginably inept TV presenter who, in this latest series, has made an inexplicable return to the Beeb to co-present an inane daytime magazine show – never seems to fare particularly well in encounters with the Irish, but the joke is always on Partridge. 

Fans of the character will remember how, in a former incarnation, the hapless host had an equally cringeworthy run in with a pair of Irish TV producers – played by Father Ted creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews – who were considering hiring him for a fresh, modern show about a changing Ireland. (Sample Alan quotes: “A good slogan for the tourist board… Dere’s more to Ireland den dis.”, “Could we come live from the Blarney Stone?”). 

BBC Studios / YouTube

Partridge’s sole cinema outing, Alpha Papa, also features a disgruntled Irish radio host played by Colm Meaney who stages a siege at a Norwich radio station.  

Speaking at the time, Coogan said: 

“I’m half Irish and Alan does make all sorts of Irish references. I spent nearly every summer of my life growing up in the west of Ireland and I’m very familiar with Mayo and Cork and west Cork.

A lot of the humour I do as Alan is British prejudice against the Irish which can sound just like jokes against the Irish but it has to be put into the context of Alan’s ignorance which is why we get away with it. Also, the director of Alpha Papa is Irish.

Bearing in mind the adage that analysing comedy is akin to dissecting a frog (nobody laughs and the frog dies), it’s the main character’s unease with, frankly, anything that upends his middle-of-the-road, middle England sensibility that prompts the laughs in Partridge projects. 

As one response to this tweet (above) from BBC Radio Ulster’s main phone-in show put it: 

Terrific comedy. Steve Coogan and his team of writers are superb. Can’t understand why this is controversial. It’s called satire.
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