BY Ian Dunn | March 25 2011 | comments icon 9 COMMENTS     print icon print


New goals on bigotry

Church calls for fresh approach to tackling sectarianism after anti-Catholic chanting blighted League Cup final tie

The Church is calling for a new plan to tackle sectarianism after what was billed as a ‘showpiece’ League Cup final between Celtic and Rangers was marred by sustained anti-Catholic chanting in spite of renewed pleas for an end to bigoted behaviour.

Peter Kearney, director of the Catholic Media Office, said the current approach to the problem, an issue that has become known as ‘Scotland’s shame,’ was ‘putting the cart before the horse.’

Better behaviour call

Before last weekend’s Hampden final Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the Right Rev John Christie, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, issued a joint call urging fans not to ‘disgrace the good name of Scotland’ by engaging in ‘violence, abuse and bigotry.’ In spite of the church leaders’ plea, however, Rangers fans were heard singing sectarian songs throughout Sunday’s game, including the notorious ‘Famine song.’

Joe Bradley, editor of the Celtic Minded series of books, said the continued singing of the Famine song showed Scotland has not moved on from sectarianism.

“Obviously such songs have a long history in Scottish football,” he told the SCO this week. “These particular ones seemed to have disappeared in recent years from football’s public stage, but Sunday shows that they remain part of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish popular culture.

“The lack of subsequent appropriate and erudite comment on the part of many in Scotland, not least of all politicians, the police and football authorities, reflects a society struggling with ethnic and religious diversity and with a lack of in-depth knowledge and understanding with regards ethnic and religious prejudice and bigotry in this country.”

Socialist politician George Galloway told Irish journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain that he had been appalled at the chanting from the Rangers support.

“The Famine song, just one of the hate anthems that assaulted us from the TV, has been ruled as racist by an eminent judge,” Mr Galloway said. “The police, who praised the fans and the comparatively low number of arrests, clearly stood back and allowed the sectarian and racist abuse.”

Government stance

Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, however, has claimed the game, which was played after the recent government summit on sectarianism, had been a ‘showpiece final.’

“This was the showpiece final everyone wanted to see, and it was a great advert for Scottish football,” he said. “The players, management and fans contributed to a memorable occasion, and I urge that their positive example inside the ground is replicated outside it over the course of the evening and beyond.”

First Minister Alex Salmond convened the recent summit between Celtic, Rangers and the police after the previous match between Celtic and Rangers saw a number of arrests and three red cards on the pitch.

Crown action

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution service told the SCO that solicitor general Frank Mulholland, with the backing of Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, recently recommended a number of measures to the Scottish Government regarding sectarianism, including increased maximum sentences for sectarian offences (from six months to five years); penalising people who use the internet to post sectarian abuse and the release of the breakdown of how and where sectarian offences were occurring in Scotland. The Scottish Government still has to legislate on these issues.

Peter Kearney, who has been calling for these figures to be made public for the past five years, said that information must be released so it can inform anti-sectarianism policy going forward.

“At the moment we don’t know the details of who is at risk of sectarian attack,” he said. “In 2006, which is the last figures we have, it showed Catholics were five times as much at risk. But we don’t have this data for the present day and we need it to find a solution.”

Mr Kearney also said that organisations like Nil by Mouth, which received a share of £500,000 in funding the recent anti-sectarian summit, were taking the wrong approach to the problem.

“The current approach to sectarianism by giving funding to Nil by Mouth and others is like putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “We need to analyse the data first and then use that analysis to develop solutions. Right now we have it the other way around. Anti-sectarianism funding has to be informed by the Crown Office statistics so we can move away from one size fits all approach.”

Mr Kearney did welcome the recommendation that online sectarian abuse could also become a criminal offence with a lengthy sentence.

“The Prosecutor’s approach to sectarianism must cover all types of sectarian offence whether on line or in person,” he said. “It’s a welcome move in that any change sends out a clear signal that religious hatred will not be tolerated.”


Comments - 9 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    If you really are concerned about sectarainism then you’d do well to address both sets of supporters regards Celtic and Rangers instead of laying total blame at the door of Rangers FC and its supporters. As an ex forces man I attended the recent Old Firm game at Parkhead and was sickened by the Pro IRA songs and other little add ons regards the Brits out of Ireland etc, I see no mention of that in any of your articles which is ironic considering you are so against sectarianism. A balanced view would be taken far more seriously…. Lets have the whole debate instead of the soundbites you seem to feel the need and urge to give when something doesn’t quite sit right with your views.

  2. Craig Laird says:

    I completely agree that sectarianism in Scotland is something that needs to be tackled and also concur that the approach being taken by authorities presently is inadequate. Old Firm football is merely a manifestation of a deeper rooted problem in Scotland that can only be addressed through profound fundamental action at grass-roots level.

    Articles like this however are entirely inflammatory due to their complete imbalance. In recent Old Firm matches, where Celtic have emerged victorious, chants of “Dirty Orange B*****d” and “Go home h**s” have also been audible from TV coverage and yet nothing like this article has emerged – are we to believe that you only want to tackle one side of sectarianism, or perhaps that the one-sided approach goes hand-in-hand with Celtic losing? During my last visit to an Old Firm match I had the misfortune of being seated very close to the Celtic support and their incessant “Ooh ah up the RA” promotion of the IRA was completely disgusting.

    I agree with the sentiments in this article, but until organisations across the board start to accept the two-sided nature of this blight on the face of Scotland then articles such as this will be immediately dismissed by one side.

    Best Regards

  3. Killieblue says:

    Songs in support of the IRA and wishing death to British subjects, soldiers and the monarchy are fine then ??
    I’m sure you will say they are political and not sectarian but they are clearly discriminatory and offensive to some.

    It was a great game tho

  4. matt says:

    why no comment on the IRA chants from the Celtic support?
    If you are going to tackle this you really need to lose the selective hearing you have presently.

  5. s.whiteford says:

    dublin belfast cork and donegal

    soon there’ll be no protestants at all

    put your own house in order before you start on others.

  6. Philip M.McGhee says:

    The American experience shows that bigotry is reduced by working together,not just talking. Maybe it’s time for a new team, the Celtic Rangers,across the relgious divide. 70 years ago, a Catholic could not be elected president in the USA. Today,we have a president of Afro-American ancestry, a Catholic vice-president, and our Supreme Court,with 9 members, has six Catholics and three Jews. Not bad for a “Protestant” country.

  7. Alan Clayton says:

    I never ever go to Old Firm games now , but sometimes watch them on telly.Many many years ago I was attacked by Glasgow Celtic supporters and spent months in hospital. I called a halt after that.On the field it was an exemplary game and that I think was what Kenny was referring to.I am not sufficiently aware of this song to pick it up on telly. A genuine error has been made and to try to stick a government Minister with sectarianism really is absurd.

  8. willie maher says:

    when tackling sectarianism in scotland and the rest of britain you have to look at why any royal family member cannot marry a catholic.just across the water in the great british establishment of harland and wolfe in its hey day only employed 1 in fifteen catholics

  9. Peter O'Donnell says:

    Rob, no need to mention that you have been a member of the armed services…we don’t blindly deify those whom the education system has failed in this country the way they do in the US.

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