The family of the former dinner lady, who lived in Coventry for most of her life before passing at age 73, had originally planned to have the Irish epitaph “In ár gCroithe go deo” – which translates as “in our hearts forever” engraved on her headstone.
However, a court of the Church of England ruled that the Gaelic phrase could be interpreted as “political” or “provocative” if displayed without an English translation.
The decision sparked widespread anger among the Irish community and in response, Fontaines D.C., wrote ‘Skinty Fia’’s opener ‘In ár gCroíthe go deo’ (“Gone is the day/ Gone is the night”) in response to the decision.
“The story really hit home” Fontaines DC’s Grian Chatten told NME after he read about Keane. “I just found it very revealing; it unravelled this cynical distrust in the British perception of Ireland. It was like, ‘Ah, but you’ve never really trusted us, have you?!’”
In February 2021, the decision was overruled after three years of campaigning from Keane’s daughters. On the same day the news came, the band laid down the vocals for the song. They sent the song to the Keane family via email, who then proceeded to play it for their mother at her grave.
“The whole situation was very triggering for me. It broke my heart,” Chatten told NME. “I want to say that the family’s acknowledgement of the song is really validating, but it’s not an award. All I care about is that we have their blessing to release the tune, which is the most important thing.”
On Saturday (May 28), the family of Keane met Fontaine’s D.C. at their mother’s graveside.
The family tweeted: “Deeply moving today as we finally met @fontainesdublin who came to pay their respects to mum at her resting place.”
“Who would’ve thought a simple Irish phrase ‘In ár gcroíthe go deo’ would’ve united so many and inspired the first track on their No 1 Album.”
The band announced ‘Skinty Fia’ back in January, coinciding with the release of its lead single ‘Jackie Down The Line’. Several singles followed, including ‘I Love You’, the title track and ‘Roman Holiday’. The album topped both the UK and Irish album charts upon release, marking their first time reaching Number One on either.
In a five-star review, NME described the album as “a breathtaking collection that’s like nothing they’ve ever done before”.
“The fight for a better Ireland deserves songs that mirror the depth of the crisis, and in its endlessly captivating glory, ‘Skinty Fia’ rises triumphantly to the task,” it read.