Ireland's national anthem should be legally protected and guidelines for its use need to be drawn up, a Seanad committee has heard.

The copyright for Amhrán na bhFiann/The Soldier's Song expired at the end of 2012 and a Seanad committee was set up to protect it from inappropriate use and to look at drafting guidelines for its use.

Conal Kearney, grandson of Peadar Kearney who wrote the lyrics in late 1909 or 1910, told the committee that both the English and Irish version of the anthem must "be given the respect, dignity and protection, it so rightly deserves."

He described his grandfather as a visionary and revolutionary.

He said: "Our identity as a nation and as citizens is defined by our history. The Soldier's Song/Amhrán na bhFiann links us to our history and therefore our identity."

On 1 January 2013, the anthem fell out of copyright protection and at that time Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly proposed legislation to protect it.

It is out of that proposal that the current public consultation has come about.

He told the committee that the anthem belongs to everybody and "is a key symbol of the State and is worthy of our protection".

Dublin City councillor Nial Ring, a grandnephew of Liam Ó Rinn, who translated Soldier's Song into Irish, said it was sung before the evacuation of the GPO in 1916.

Following on from these hearings, a draft report will be prepared for the committee.

It will then be reviewed and a final report will then be published.