BBC Radio 2 to play ‘Fairytale Of New York’ without offensive lyric for first time

"We are reflecting what we are hearing back from many of our listeners"

BBC Radio 2 is to play The Pogues‘ ‘Fairytale Of New York’ without the song’s slur for the first time.

The 1987 track, which is performed by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues frontman Shane McGowan, is considered offensive because it has a homophobic slur in its lyrics.

During the Christmas period the song often makes headlines due to its lyrics that contain the word “f****t”. It’s been argued, however, that the word should be taken in context of it being traditional Irish slang for a “lazy person”.


In 2018 McGowan defended the word, saying that it was never intended to be homophobic.

“The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character. She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate,” MacGowan said.

“Her dialogue is as accurate as I could make it but she is not intended to offend! She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively.”

Now, a spokesperson for BBC Radio 2 has confirmed to HuffPost UK that ‘Fairytale Of New York’ will be aired this festive season without the song’s slur for the first time. The station previously broadcasted the original lyric despite other BBC stations choosing to play a censored version.

“On Radio 2 we are reflecting what we are hearing back from many of our listeners who love the song, but find some of the lyrics jarring in 2022, and playing an alternative version provided by the record company,” a spokesperson said.

“We know the song is considered a Christmas classic and will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience.”


The ongoing debate has led to several radio stations in the past playing a version of the track in which the line, “You cheap, lousy f****t” is replaced with “You’re cheap and you’re haggard”. The replacement line is lifted from a live MacColl performance prior to the singer’s death in 2000.

In 2019, actress and screenwriter Ruth Jones responded to backlash Gavin & Stacey received after the lyric was included in that year’s Christmas TV special. The slur occurred when Nessa (played by Jones) and Bryn performed a version of the 1987 hit.

After the 2019 Christmas special caused people to complain to TV watchdog Ofcom about the slur, Jones stepped in to respond to the backlash explaining that it was included to “remain true to the characters”.

“It is a different climate. But we have to remain true to the characters, to who they were,” Jones told The Sun a the time.

“Characters in Gavin & Stacey are kind and big-hearted, I believe. So I think no one is going to be intentionally hurtful. But by the same token, they’re not necessarily going to be completely politically correct or be aware of political correctness.”

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