Crossmaglen locals insist warm welcome awaits ‘Up-the-Ra’ chanter Sinead Murtagh on her return

The glamorous school counsellor went to ground after she made herself a social media sensation last weekend

Sinead Murtagh

Arlene Foster with IRA chanter Sinead Murtagh

Hugh JordanSunday World

A warm welcome awaits ‘Ooh-aa-Up-the-Ra’ chanter Sinead Murtagh when she appears back on the streets of Crossmaglen, locals said this week.

The glamorous school counsellor went to ground after she made herself a social media sensation last weekend, provoking fury after singing the infamous verse during a selfie with former First Minister Arlene foster.

But few residents in the south Armagh village where she lives were prepared publicly condemn her actions – although a number of them did conceded she “probably regrets it now”.

Sinead catapulted herself the headlines with her antics at the Local Women Business Awards dinner, where Ms Murtagh was invited by another guest.

The south Armagh woman approached the DUP politician requesting a selfie.

And with unsuspecting Arlene Foster smiling into the camera, Sinead suddenly broke into a couple of phrases of the Wolf Tones hit song Celtic Symphony.

Awards guest films ‘Up the Ra’ chant during selfie with Arlene Foster

As she belted out ‘Ooh-aa-Up-the-Ra’, a visibly upset Arlene Foster pulled away in disgust.

But yesterday in Crossmaglen, the vast majority of people we spoke to – while not saying Sinead was right to blast out a pro-IRA chant – point-blank refused to offer a word of criticism.

“The reality is, if they could do it, the people round here will always support Sinead Murtagh,” one man said.

“Yes, Arlene Foster suffered and her father and family suffered as well. Apparently she has invited Sinead to visit her father’s grave in Fermanagh.

“Well there are plenty of graves and grieving families in south Armagh who continue to suffer on a daily basis. And it was the state which brought suffering to our homes,” he said.

The former First Minister was just eight when her reserve police officer father was fortunate to survive an IRA attack after he was shot in the head in 1979.

She was in the family home in Fermanagh when her father stumbled inside with blood gushing from a head wound.

And nine years later, she was a teenager when a school bus in which she was travelling was blown up by the IRA which had targeted the driver who was also a part-time UDR soldier.

Film footage of Sinead singing beside Arlene Foster went viral when it was posted on social media this week. And the volunteer school counsellor’s actions were widely condemned by all political parties in Northern Ireland – including Sinn Féin – and she’s kept her head down since.

A family relative told a reporter that the prospects of her commenting further were “unlikely”.

Sinn Féin First Minister elect Michelle O’Neill called on people to be civil and mindful of other people’s feelings when using social media.

She spoke out after Baroness Foster suggested this kind of behaviour was likely to become normal when public figures claimed there was no alternative to IRA violence, referring to a previous statement made by Michelle O’Neill.

Sinead Murtagh

Baroness Foster said she found it depressing that a young person thought it acceptable to sing pro-IRA slogans.

Michelle O’Neill stressed that Sinead was wrong to have approached Baroness Foster in the manner in which she did. And she called on members of the public to be “careful and very sensitive” in public discourse.

St Paul’s High School in Bessbrook, where Sinead works, said that it was following proper procedures following the outcry over a volunteer counsellor’s behaviour.

The school said it was aware of the incident and that the counsellor in question – who works in a voluntary capacity – had contacted the school requesting personal leave and that the school was supporting her in the decision.

A spokesperson for St Paul’s said: “It continues to work tirelessly to embrace diversity and encourage multicultural harmony.”

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