As Paddy’s Day approaches, it’s time to celebrate Ireland in song once again – from the good, the bad (and Bad) and the very ugly. The Troubles, the drink and emigration seem to occupy our songwriters the most and while these aren’t necessarily the greatest Irish songs of all time (although some of them well may be), they are songs from Ireland which best capture the essence of Irishness, for better or worse

Seven Drunken NightsThe Dubliners (1967)

Well before we were known for being stoney broke, the Irish were known for being blind drunk. Many claims may have been made on the origins of this song but The Dubliners made it their own when they performed it on Top of the Pops in 1967. The drink has fuelled many an Irish song: maybe we were trying to drown our sorrows in the face of the Old Enemy, the want of a land to call our own, and the lack of sex (sex was illegal in Ireland until quite recently) but these swaggering, staggering verses were a jubliant toast to a drop of whatever you’re having yourself. Also see: Let’s Get Falling Down by The Revenants.

We Don’t Need Nobody ElseWhipping Boy (1995)

This bolt of pure anger scorched across Ireland’s moribund music scene in 1995, a year which began and ended with Boyzone at No.1. From the gathering fury of the bitter opening verse, the nearly men of Irish rock vented spleen on a morbid tale of alcoholism, drug and domestic abuse. Singer Fearghal McKee’s killer line, ‘They built portals for Bono so he could gaze out across the bay and write songs about mountains maybe’ (a reference to the positioning of the bathroom windows in the U2 frontman’s house) was much appreciated by music fans disenchanted with Ireland’s corporate rock structures. In many ways it was our Smells Like Teen Spirit.

BadU2 (1984)

Write what you know, they always say. These days we’re not sure what U2 write about but back in 1984 as they gathered steam as the world’s biggest band, they were at the forefront of Irish acts penning songs about their blighted homeland. This powerful, eviscerating epic about the heroin epidemic that had gripped Dublin in the ’80s captured the desperation of the junkie better than most songs about addiction. When U2 peformed Bad at Live Aid in 1985 it propelled them onto the world stage. The rest is hysteria.

I Useta Love HerSaw Doctors (1990)

The Sham town rebels eulogised and satirised the western badlands with a nod to Springsteen and a dash of comedic Irish folk. I Useta Love Her stayed at No.1 for nine weeks in 1990 and it was the song that put the band on the N17 outta Dodge. Its accordion clatter and provincial chatter about checking out girls at mass and making ostentious contributions as the collection plate was passed around struck a chord in the hearts of Irish people everywhere.

Thousands are SailingThe Pogues (1988)

Fairytale of New York is the obvious choice but Phil Chevron’s deeply-moving song about emigration is back to strike a chord in our BaNama Republic. Many songs have been written about the Irish diaspora but this one ducks sentimentality (sure, it’s only a five-hour hop to New York these days!) and brilliantly traces Irish emigrant history, from coffin ships to the green card lottery system. The Pogues married a celebration of a new life in the New World with an emigrants’ age-old lament for the old sod: ‘In Brendan Behan's footsteps I danced up and down the street. Then we raised a glass to JFK and a dozen more besides, But when I got back to my empty room I suppose I must have cried.’ Listen to this again and you may well be joining him.

Suspect DeviceStiff Little Fingers (1978)

The word ‘incendiary’ is often used to describe the brief but influential conflagration that was punk music and few punk acts were more incendiary than Belfast’s Stiff Little Fingers. Very much the deadly serious flipside to The Undertones’ teenage pop dream, their debut single Suspect Device detonated in 1978 and became an anthem amid a sickening cycle of violence: ‘They play their games of power/They mark and cut the pack/They deal us to the bottom/But what do they put back?’

Dearg Doom/Put ’Em Under PressureHorslips (1990)

Horslips rejigged Seán Ó Riada's Marcshlua Uí Néill for Dearg Doom and it was rejigged again to become the official song of the Irish football squad at Italia ’90. Put ’Em Under Pressure became the battle cry of team green as Ireland strained international credulity and our own battered self-belief and qualified for the World Cup finals. Produced by footie fanatic Larry Mullen, it will forever trigger brilliant memories of our game-changing crusade at Italia ’90.

Alan Corr

The Big Debate, RTÉ Radio One, Bank Holiday Monday, 2.00pm

Jim Lockhart and guests, Dave Fanning, Maxi and Alan Corr, run the rule over the best Irish music and songs to determine which are likeliest to stand the test of time. Featuring acts such as U2, Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison and Boyzone