At her Belfast concert last Saturday, Lady GaGa waved an Irish flag; causing debate about the emblem's meaning, while invoking the rebel Irish strain in rock rebellion.
David Bowie made similar controversy at a Dublin concert a few years back, when he shouted Tiochfaidh Ár Lá (chukee owr law) on a live recording of "Rebel, Rebel." He stubbornly released the live-in-Dublin DVD including Irish phrase "Our Day Will Come," as a nod to the mantra of the Irish Civil Rights Movement and Republican struggle.
Paul McCartney's classic song "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" and John Lennon's two songs "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Luck of the Irish" are but a few famous moments in the marriage of Irish spirit and rock renegadism.
Bono's song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was sung like a rebel song, but also as an anthem of peace. Bono consciously invokes Luke Kelly as a prime influence, and knows he must carry the Irish song tradition into rock with a heavy burden. Like Seán MacBride--the IRA man who went on to found Amnesty International--the rebel wants what is better than what is allowed, but above all, he wants peace and justice for an oppressed people.
Since the Belfast Agreement, the Irish flag as with "the wearin' o' the green," is no longer prohibited in Belfast. The Irish flag is the flag of the Republic, but also the flag of the Irish people. We fly it in New York--GaGa's hometown; and everywhere else that the Irish live, including Belfast. The Irish flag was once prohibited around the British imperial world, but the prohibiton and the empire are no longer. Bowie astutely rejected knighthood in the order of British empire (OBE) in recognition of the end of British domination.
The Irish flag, the tri-color, is a reminder to the Irish that the green and orange traditions in Ireland are bound together on an island, but by the white stripe, the emblem of peace. Peace is all Bono, Luke Kelly, David Bowie, John Lennon, Paul McCartney or Lady GaGa ever meant by tapping into a rebel tradition that has gone on to erect a neutral republic and peace agreement as its legacy.