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The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan Responds to Calls to Censor “Fairytale Of New York”

The PoguesShane MacGowan has responded to calls to censor “Fairytale Of New York,” The Irish Times reports. In the song, Kirsty MacColl sings the lines, “You scumbag, you maggot/ You cheap lousy faggot/ Happy Christmas, your arse/ I pray God it’s our last,” and earlier this week, 2FM DJ Eoghan McDermott took to Twitter to express his discomfort with the lyrics, writing, “I asked the two gay members of my team how they feel, since faggot is their N word. If people want to slur the gay community, this is their most powerful weapon. One favours censoring, the other outright not playing it. Neither like it. Simples.”

“Phrases that have zero social utility should fall away,” McDermott’s series of tweets continued. “Enough vitriol out there without gay people having to feel uncomfortable so people that aren’t affected by an insult can tap their toe. Black Eyed Peas ‘Let’s Get Retarded’ changed to ‘Let’s Get It Started’ — rightly so. Nobody complained. The fact this song is a classic isn’t a strong enough defence to not at least censor it. We censor shit, fuck, ass, weed and loads of other comparatively benign words in songs. It’s not a big ask.”

Irish broadcaster RTÉ issued a statement saying that it will not censor “Fairytale Of New York,” which is one of the most played songs of the holiday season. And now, in the wake of the controversy, MacGowan has issued a statement to Virgin Media’s The Tonight Show addressing the lyrics. “The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character. She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person,” he said. “She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate.”

“Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend! She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively,” the statement continued. “If people don’t understand that I was trying to accurately portray the character as authentically as possible then I am absolutely fine with them bleeping the word but I don’t want to get into an argument.”

McDermott returned to Twitter to respond to MacGowan, clarifying that no one on his team tried to get the song banned from RTÉ. “I get the dysfunctional characters and mayhem and trading of insults,” he said. “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 this song.”

This isn’t the first time the song has been the center of controversy. In 2007, the BBC decided to fade out the words “faggot” and “slut” while playing “Fairytale Of New York” so they wouldn’t offend listeners. After numerous listeners complained, the BBC reversed the decision and allowed the song to be played unedited. Read MacGowan and McDermott’s statement’s on the issue below.

This article originally appeared on Stereogum.