Australian firms apologise after releasing Irish Famine-themed beer for St Patrick's Day

Australian firms apologise after releasing Irish Famine-themed beer for St Patrick's Day

AN Australian company has apologised after it released a beer inspired by the Irish Famine for St Patrick’s Day.

The ale, called Famine and the Crown, was a collaborative effort from Australian brewers Shark Island and Willie the Boatman.

The label for the beer depicted a mother holding a child while a ship sailed off in the background, with Shark Island owner Dion Dickinson saying the inspiration for the title and artwork came from the folk song, The Fields of Athenry.

Following complaints, the companies withdrew the beer and removed social media posts promoting the ‘caramel choc Irish cream ale’.

They have now issued an apology, saying their intention was not to trivialise the Famine, which claimed the lives of around one million people and forced a similar number to emigrate.

“Firstly, we would like to humbly apologise for the obvious offense it has caused. This truly was not our intention," Mr Dickinson said in a statement.

“When we decided to collaborate with Willie the Boatman on a St Patrick’s release we were conscious of not delivering a cliché Irish-themed beer but wished to express something a little more genuine.

“The inspiration for the beer came from the classic Irish song The Fields of Athenry, a song that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

“The second verse in particular resonates strongly the strength of the Irish people under extreme adversity, and as an Australian, the mention of Botany Bay has always drawn me to the song."

Mr Dickinson added: “It was never our intention to trivialise this terrible piece of history for the sale of a few kegs, but to acknowledge the resilience of the people.

“The artwork depicts the scene from the song.

“There was no disrespect intended and as soon as we awoke to the legitimately angry, hurt comments, we removed the offending title and artwork.

“Once again we apologise for the obvious offence and insult we have caused and we hope you can forgive the error and understand it was not made with malice.”

The Fields of Athenry, written in the 1970s by Pete St John, tells the story of a man sentenced to transportation to Australia for stealing food during the Famine and includes the lines “Against the Famine and the Crown / I rebelled they ran me down”.

The final verse describes the man’s wife watching from the shore, “As the prison ship sailed out against the sky”.

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