When is bigotry and sectarianism acceptable? Never! When is bigotry and sectarianism acceptable in Scotland? When its levelled at the Irish Catholic community it seems.
Let’s be clear, not all of our support are either Irish or Catholic but tribally a large number of Scottish Celtic fans identify culturally with that group due to ancestry, schooling, upbringing etc.
Basically if you support Celtic there’s a noisy, influential section of society who generalize us as ‘fenians’ and fenian bastard is a pejorative that’s used so often in Scotland the authorities and institutions either ignore it or worse, perpetuate it.
Anti-Irishness within the Scottish establishment is so widespread and entrenched it’s very easy for the relevant institutions to gaslight the victims of this form of racism should they attempt to have it addressed.
We all know the history of the mass immigration that took place as a consequence of the genocidal policies of imperial Britain in Ireland and we all know the difficulties the Irish community faced from the Protestant Scottish establishment and the violence and discrimination that followed.
There are too many examples to list in a short article but to make a link with contemporary behaviours I’ll highlight the song ‘The Billy boys’, what it glorifies and how normalized it’s become to the extent you can regularly hear fifty thousand people frothing at the mouth singing it.
This is a song about the slashing and stabbing of Catholics by a thug who went on to form the Scottish chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. In what universe should that be something people are not ashamed to sing? In what universe should it be a song people are allowed to sing? In this one, right here. Can we imagine it was about killing Jews or people of colour? People would be furious and disgusted and there would be an outcry so vast you’d never hear it again.
Scottish society can raise itself up like this when it wants to. It was forced to when John Reid was chairman of Celtic and the anti-Irish Famine Song reared its head. A few questions in Parliament, the Irish Government raising it in Strasbourg and the silence fell like a hammer on an anvil.
But The Billy Boys … it’s part of the “culture” of the Ibrox club and so no-one even blinks.
Another example that always sticks in my head was the murder of a young Celtic fan by Orange Order thug Jason Campbell in the late 90’s simply for having a Celtic scarf on after a game on a Saturday. Campbell claimed it was a political act and requested political prisoner status. This sociopathic coward thought he would be treated more leniently for claiming that he actually targeted this kid as a Catholic rather than it just being the random murder of a child in the street. Think about that for a minute!
Fast forward to 2023 and the murky polluted world of Scottish football.
Again, we all know about the institutions.
The Lanarkshire referee lodge, the ‘FTP’ emails by the head honcho of that institution. The fact that his son is now a Grade 1 referee, the former Ibrox season ticket holder allowed to referee the club he supports and their rivals, the after dinner speakers gloating about decisions against the fenians, the former Ibrox youth player given the same freedoms, the list goes on.
And the response by the hordes to the perfectly reasonable and legitimate criticism of these aberrations? One of the referees taught at a catholic school!
It’s such a stupid and ignorant statement that it’s difficult to actually get your head around it, but that’s the environment we’re in.
So no one should be surprised that serial bigot and halfwit Kyle Lafferty fresh from a ban for an overt display of bigotry and sectarianism (the term we use in Scotland instead of racism) had powder puff media pieces and ringing endorsements from his manager about how he was champing at the bit to play against Celtic at the weekend, not that it turned out well for him or his club … a little left-handed justice there in my personal view.
But imagine he’d been filmed making the same comments about any other ethnic group? He would be vilified and demonized by our media and the stigma would be such that his career would quite probably be over.
As it is he strolled out of the tunnel as if nothing happened, safe in the knowledge that the conscious and unconscious bias, cognitive dissonance and overt sectarianism rooted in the psyche of our society means there’s nothing to see here. It was a section of the Celtic support, who lashed out at this bigot with some less than savoury sentiments of their own, who wound up in the spotlight. A case of victim blaming if ever there was one.
When Celtic minded people complain about this or the ridiculous refereeing situation, we’re gaslit with scoffs of paranoia or accused of fomenting conspiracy.
Sectarianism is a hot potato in Scotland, no one with the authority to make changes wants to lift up the rock because they know what they’ll find underneath.
A societal cancer that would require a generation-long educational drive to have any hope of success, that would be resisted fiercely by those who believe their ‘culture’ entitles them to have those views.
It’s been kicked down the road and skirted around for far too long.
We have a government who legislates to prevent discrimination based on protected characteristics like ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality etc, its high time they started enforcing it and grasped the nettle of sectarianism rather than turning a blind eye and expecting the football institutions to deal with it internally.
They never have and they never will.
It’s not a ‘sporting’ issue, it’s a criminal justice issue and what Lafferty did merited more than a poxy ban for a few games. That was meaningless. In a sane universe his manager would chase him out the club and the media would report objectively about the appalling example he sets and the responsibility of professional sports people to be good role-models.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a sane universe, we live in Scotland, the best wee country in the world, the one where this stuff is still tolerated. Just not by its victims.
Chris Cominato is a Celtic fan and occasional contributor to the site. He is one of the admin team on The CelticBlog Facebook group.
January 18, 2023 at 2:05 pm
January 18, 2023 at 5:25 pm
Stephen Mcnally says:
January 19, 2023 at 6:01 pm
Excellent article Chris all salient points very intelligently highlighted. What we have to put up with in this country is nothing short of scandalous and in many instances downright illegal but who cares- certainly not civic Scotland that’s for damn sure. Remember all the outcry after the George Square riots when the racist anti-Irish and the anti- Catholic singing could not be ignored as the whole of the UK saw (and heard) the news reports. Cue much hand-wringing and empty promises from our politicians- here we are in 2023 not one promise delivered on surprise eh?!
Incidentally, very disappointed to see the Catholic school debate rearing its head here ( the usual argument put forward in the media for the ‘sectarianism’ in this country) victim blaming much? Firstly, most Catholic schools nowadays are ‘mixed’ when my son was at school his school was about 60/40 mixed and that was a while back so probably pretty evenly mixed nowadays- with NO problems whatsoever- when have you ever heard of sectarianism or fighting in the schools? I would also point out that there are Catholic schools in England and elsewhere with no issues reported nor Catholic parents vilified by choosing to send their children there!
I suspect the real issue is that some would prefer religion was kept out of schools- good luck with that in a theocracy and anyway that is a discussion for another place.
Once again, Chris congratulations on a great article.
The problem in Scotland is not just the Ibrox support. The problem is not just the Orange Order. The problem in Scotland, is and always has been, The Establishment. Senior politicians, Police officers, High Court judges and Sheriffs, hold the same racist and sectarian views as the Loyalist lower-orders. Until that changes, nothing else will.
Excellent piece of journalism
I don’t think any mainstreaming paper would ever publish this kind of story
They were quick to run Aleksander Tonev out of Glasgow for supposed racism
The sfa,s reply
“Racism in any form has to be taken seriously and there is no room for it in scottish football or society”
He was on loan from Aston villa with the chance to move permanently then was let go
Now playing back in Bulgaria career in tatters
Any difference ?
I’m a celtic fan have been since my dad 1st took me and religion has never been part of my life but feels forced on you by certain religious and media groups its just because of who you support that your automatically a Catholic
I get it just because of my surname name
I cannot see anything changing EVER
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