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Nothing To See Here

8 March 2021


Modern Scotland isn’t quite as modern as some people would have you believe, and this weekend demonstrated that fact. Thousands of people poured onto the streets on Saturday and Sunday and proceeded to go through their usual repertoire of hate: songs about the Lisbon Lions dying, paedophilia, the famine is over why don’t you go home and odd chants like F the Pope. It’s a very weird mindset and, living in England, people here are completely bemused as to why anyone cares about that sort of nonsense in the 21st century. It’s rightly seen as the mindset of a backwards freak and wouldn’t happen here. Yet, in Scotland it not only happens, but it goes unreported as if it’s normal.


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People have become so accustomed to the anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic sectarianism that they’ve become numb to it and turn a blind eye. I’m not the type of person to get offended by words, but that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean these sorts of 16th century attitudes should be allowed to fester. This is 2021 in a civilised wealthy country. Could you imagine the (rightful) outrage if the Rangers fans had sung F Jews/Muslims or go back to Pakistan? It’d be major news, but the racism was against the Irish and the sectarianism was against Catholics so in the eyes of the establishment, and many people, it’s just another day in modern Scotland. “Nothing to see here.”

I made the point on social media, that if the abuse was screamed on the street against other races or religions it wouldn’t be ignored, especially in the “woke” era of society which is supposed to be consigning this hatred to the past. However, the response from many outside those communities was symptomatic of the myth that surrounds this topic – it’s a football issue, an “Old Firm” issue, it doesn’t happen North of Dundee, what about Celtic fans singing about the IRA?

Again, if this was any other group being targeted then, quite rightly, there wouldn’t be acceptance, whataboutery or an attitude of “ah well it doesn’t happen in other parts of Scotland.” Furthermore, the Celtic support singing Republican songs is absolutely not the same thing.

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Irish Republicanism is political, and it’s modern movement was effectively began by progressive Protestants such as Wolfe Tone. Rebel songs are about people fighting for their country’s independence from an invading force and fighting for their people’s civil rights. I understand that these songs may cause offence, depending on one’s view of the conflict (although most views come from a position of ignorance by those who have no idea about the origins of the Troubles), but they are not anti-protestant, they are not racist and do not come from a place of hatred. All nations and peoples celebrate those who fought for their freedom – not least Britain, who quite rightly remember those who fought against fascist imperialism during WWI and WWII. Those soldiers didn’t fight with flowers and the RAF dropped bombs on Berlin. However, it is quite clearly understood that the people who commemorate their sacrifice do not do so from a position of hate against Germany.

Songs about your forefathers fighting against tyranny and oppression, combined with a political view (support for Irish unity), is absolutely not the same as outright naked religious and racist hatred.

The Irish diaspora has come a long way in Scotland. It took until 1991 for Irish descendants to reach occupational parity in the country, as opposed to 1901 in America. It wasn’t so long ago that Catholic schools had a day off in Glasgow to celebrate the first Catholic getting a job in a bank. Many people remember the No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish posters. There wasn’t a St Patrick’s Day parade allowed in Glasgow until very recently. A famine memorial, which features in cities all over the world where migrants arrived because of An Gorta Mor, is finally going to be erected this year – and Irish bars are now permitted in the city centre of Glasgow, which would never have happened in the 1990s. But there’s still a way to go.

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The hypocrisy and double standards applied by the police, media and politicians is quite startling. I’m sure you’ve all read the comments and seen the actions by each over the weekend. It’s quite incredible how their treatment of the Celtic support and the weekend’s title celebraters differed.

Scottish media man, David Tanner, made some interesting comments on Twitter. I actually had to check they weren’t written by a fake account. Here’s his comment at the weekend: “Congratulations Rangers – they’re uncatchable now! The fans waited a decade for 55 & deserve a party. These scenes are good natured – no sharks harmed – but an open goal for those in govt who have no time for football. Said it about the Green Brigade: rules also apply to ultras.” Those lovely touching comments, perpetuating the club being transferred to the new company despite not being a legal entity or asset, were in stark contrast to his remarks about the Celtic support after they gathered outside Hampden Park for the Scottish Cup Final: “The lawless element in the Celtic support – the green-eyed monster brigade – break lockdown and gather at Hampden. An embarrassment for the majority of fans. The question is are they attacking the team bus this week or cheering it? Mobs are fickle by nature.” Interestingly, Tanner had nothing to say about the riots in Clarkston on Saturday night, the bear-on-bear punch-up yesterday, or the Celtic shop being smashed at Argyle Street.

Perhaps the most poignant comparison was that of the Green Brigade being kettled as they marched in protest at the shambolic Offensive Behaviour at Football Act a few years ago, meanwhile the Rangers supporters enjoyed a police escort to George Square for a title party in the middle of a lockdown.

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We know the media don’t report on the abuse, and the politicians and police won’t put a stop to it. Thanks to their compliance, and the silence of others, Catholics are still the minority group most likely to be the victim of a hate crime in Scotland (according to government statistics published a couple of weeks ago). We know that the hatred goes beyond words. Neil Lennon had bombs sent to him. I repeat, a footballer manager had an attempt on his life because of this. That’s one of many acts of violence to go with continuing discrimination in employment, within certain industries.

So, what can we do about it? Publicise it ourselves with banners at games when we are allowed back? Put pressure on the club to use their powerful position to give us a voice? Bombard the media and MSPs with complaints? Whatever the solution, something needs to be done – and not a shambolic even up the score bill to make non-sectarian songs illegal because of causing offence. A good start would be recognising that the abuse is not merely sectarian, but racist too. An impartial police force and the ability for the media and politicians to speak the truth would also be nice.

The damage to property over the weekend might get reported, but the real underlying issue will just go on unchallenged for now. A modern woke nation, unless you dare to express any pride in your Irish heritage or be born into the Catholic faith.

Hailing from an Irish background,Liam Kelly was born in Bournemouth in 1996, with the good fortune of watching Celtic during the Martin O’Neill era. Still living on the south coast,He has a season ticket in the Lisbon Lions Stand and travels to European away matches when possible.
At the age of 19, he published his first Celtic book (Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support), which focuses exclusively on the Celtic faithful throughout the club’s history. Last year he published his second book (Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events), which has now sold out in Waterstones and Official Celtic stores. His third book (Walfrid & Bould Bhoys), which he co-authored with Matt Corr and David Potter, was published in September 2020 and is stocked in all official Celtic stores.

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