The events in George Square this past week, as the pride of the Empire made their presence felt, and showed their hatred to the world, is nothing Celtic fans aren’t intimately familiar with. We recognise it all too well. Nothing about it surprised us even a little.
If anyone in the media had the guts to address the societal problem of sectarianism and bigotry up here, then it would be a start on the road to solving this problem.
There is simplistic view in Scotland, led and fed by the media, that it’s just football fans in general, that this is all part of the Glasgow divide and that one is as bad as the other.
This is not just lazy journalism; it is cowardly journalism.
There is a team up here that has a former DUP Orange Order member for a PR chief. Just read that back to yourself.
There’s a stadium Tommy Robinson visits and where he claims to feel at home, and where the SDL feels able to hand out literature.
This football team has ultras who openly promote fascism and racism.
The fact everyone reading this knows which team I’m talking about kind of blows away any refutations. There isn’t a person in Scotland who doesn’t know which club this is.
But still, this is not a football problem. It just so happens, though, that football provides a vehicle for an issue that’s been in our society for 150 years. This is because one club up here provides a totem pole for the bigots and racists to congregate around.
Until recent times, the bigotry and discrimination we see against refugees and Muslims in general was directed at Irish Catholics. At one stadium in Glasgow it still is.
Catholics weren’t allowed certain advantages in life that others take for granted.
We were denied jobs, housing, any kind of welfare and faced violence from the likes of the Bridgeton Billy Boys.
Our club was founded to combat poverty endemic to the East End of this city; it was the area where the Irish were gathered. They fled famine and the oppression of land-owners with Scottish surnames, and came to this city hoping to find something better. What they found instead was more discrimination. It lasted for decades, and it bore a strong resemblance to that which sprung up in the United States against black people after slavery was abolished.
We understand that sort of bigotry; it was right here at home.
We all know of Billy Fullerton and how he boasted about killing Catholics.
What many don’t realise is that he also set up a Glasgow chapter of the KKK.
Those who sing his song and proudly fly his colours were gathered around the George Square cenotaph this week.
Did they know, and would they have cared, that he joined Mosley’s Union of Fascists, and actively supported the policies of Adolf Hitler?
That he’d have joined up with the Nazi Party itself had he been able?
The disconnect is incredible.
His song still booms out of the Ibrox stands … the same ones where fans are so proud of their “support for the troops” and wear their patriotism on their sleeves.
It’s high time the contradiction was exposed, and the media is well positioned to do it.
We have seen this bunch in all their evil, and all their ugliness. It permeates the whole history of this city, including all the way up to the modern age.
Anyone of my generation will remember when the Loyalist thug Jason Campbell slit the throat of a 16-year-old boy walking home from a football game; Campbell actually applied to be transferred to the Maze in Ireland as a “political prisoner” … this was fortunately refused.
But you need to marvel at the mind-set of someone who believes that murdering a child in cold blood could be deemed a political act.
Most of us would describe it as an act of terror.
Unfortunately, this was all too tied-up in football; Mark Scott’s “crime” was that he walked down a public street wearing a Celtic scarf. Elements like Campbell see their football team as the northern outpost of the British Empire.
Remember, the one that called itself Rangers had a sectarian signing policy for decades, only breaking it to sign Catholic players in the 90’s. The dog-whistles were clearly heard in Bridgeton and the likes of Campbell were more than willing to act on them.
Signing Catholics was, of course, a big improvement and they’ve managed to stop some of the singing, yet this club still sends players to represent them at “Sash Bashes” all over the country and pull ridiculous stunts with orange strips.
Now let me point out that there are a growing number of the fans at their current club who are rejecting this stuff and leaving it in the past where it belongs; the one who made a speech at the Black Lives Matter rally recently was a case in point. What a shame that the club forced him into an apology for that, and what a shame he did so.
Contrast this with the response Celtic fan Anthony Joseph got recently when he wrote his own piece on indirect racism and how he’s occasionally experienced it at Celtic Park. Nobody forced him into a retraction. The fans embraced him and thanked him for raising an important point.
Across the city, there are a hard-core who think they are the true custodians of Ibrox, and want to preserve their ‘heritage’; if the club itself were committed to completely distancing itself from them the good people would stand a chance.
In addition, if the government treated this as a societal issue in its own right, and condemned the Orange Order and every group who attach themselves to sectarianism, instead of trying to make any discussion into an issue about “Celtic and Rangers” then we might get somewhere.
Celtic and the community linked to us have their own issues, but to conflate those – which are closely linked to Irish politics – with what we’re talking about here is to completely misinterpret the manner in which sectarianism thrives at one club but not the other.
We talk about being an inclusive country but are we?
We have a group that exists to persecute and denigrate not only Catholics but anyone different, marching around our streets singing about killing “fenians” and terrorising priests and parishioners and now jumping into anti-immigrant politics and embracing ever more tightly militant Unionism’s historic link with the far-right.
These people should meet with one message when they hit our streets; you are the ones who are not welcome, you are the ones who should be pariahs.
Let me be clear too on what this article isn’t; this is not an attack on the fans who go to Ibrox every week.
It’s an attack on bigots who have stuck to the clubs which have played there like leeches for 100 years.
It’s the wider problem that needs tackled and it won’t be as long as we resist calling it what it is.
It’s no wonder these Peepul think they can denigrate and intimidate refugees who’ve travelled here looking for some kindness after suffering the worst kind of atrocities, because these thugs have been allowed for so long to do the same to the Irish Catholics of Scotland that they really do see themselves as defenders of some kind of culture, and they think they can do it now with impunity.
Well it has to stop … and the only way to end it is first to face up to it for what it is.
This is bigger than football, which is why I won’t accept any Whataboutery.
The people who gathered in George Square the other night were not wearing Celtic colours … this is not about two heads of the same coin.
One Glasgow club associates itself with this stuff and the other does not. Anyone who starts to discuss this and tries to label it a “West of Scotland problem” or an “Old Firm issue” either doesn’t know what they are talking about or they are being either disingenuous or dishonest.
It is time that this was called out for what it is.
We know where some of this comes from.
What does the song say? You can “tell (them) by their noise.”
Indeed, you can.
Chris Cominato is a Celtic fan and blogger from Glasgow. He helps moderate the CelticBlog Facebook group and is a frequent contributor to the site.
As Scottish football goes through the current crisis it is important to keep up with developments and the key issues. We are determined to do so, and to keep you informed as well. Please subscribe to the blog.