BY Daniel Harkins | October 26 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Public meeting to fight anti-Catholicism to go ahead despite threatening phone calls

Scotland’s Justice Secretary said he would give ‘full consideration’ to a group holding a meeting on Monday against anti-Catholicism and anti-Irish racism.

The Call it Out campaign against ‘anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism’ is set to launch on October 29, but the group have already had to change the location for the meeting after the original venue received ‘threatening phone calls.’

The campaign first announced the meeting was to be held at Renfield St Stephen’s, Glasgow, last Wednesday.

However, the group were told by the venue that their booking would not go ahead, as they had received ‘intimidating phone calls.’

Fred Hay, chairman of the board of directors at St Stephen’s, said they began receiving the phone calls within hours of the Call it Out campaign publicising their event on Twitter.

He said the Church of Scotland venue had previously held an event with a Sinn Féin MP that had resulted in protests from an ‘extremist group’ and the need for police protection.

“Clearly if we receive threatening phone calls from people who have caused us considerable grief recently then that is something we can’t take lightly and consequently we felt that required us to decline the booking,” he said.

“The extremists are known to us and the police and we would not want a repetition of the last incident—it was fairly horrendous,” Mr Hay said.

Asked about the threatening phone calls, a Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police were aware that the event was scheduled to take place and visited the centre to get more info from staff but were advised that they had taken the decision to cancel. This decision was made by the centre and not on any instruction or advice from police.”

The Call it Out campaign was set up following the recent attack on Canon Tom White, as well as an anti-Catholic remark made by a senior labour official at their party conference last month, and an attack on Derry man Charlie Phelan as he returned from a Celtic match on September 2.

Canon White was allegedly assaulted as an Orange walk passed St Alphonsus Church in Glasgow on July 7. A man has been charged and will appear in court at a future date.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he would give ‘full consideration’ to any contribution from the new group to an upcoming consultation on hate crime.

“In my meetings with the Catholic Church, I’ve said that without any fear or favour we should absolutely call out anti-Catholicism as anti-Catholicism,” he said.

“The Scottish Government will be launching a consultation to gather evidence that will help us to develop consolidated hate crime legislation that is fit for the 21st century.

“I am keen to hear as many voices as possible as part of this consultation and hope that the group will be formally responding. We will give full consideration to any approaches that the group makes to the Scottish Government.”

In the last year, the SCO has reported on anti-Catholic remarks by Labour and Conservative politicians, an increase in anti-Catholic graffiti in Glasgow and two cases of alleged anti-Catholic discrimination in the workplace.

There have also been multiple cases of attacks on priests and churches, though these were not necessarily bigoted in nature. Government statistics show that Catholics consistently make-up the majority of victims of religiously aggravated crimes in Scotland.

A spokesperson for the Call It Out campaign said: “There has been a long-standing blight on life in Scotland: that of documented, and much less documented, manifestations and experiences of ethnic and religious bigotry, hate crime and inequality faced by Catholics and the Irish community in Scotland.

“This multi-generational Irish community, which mainly but not exclusively intersects with the Catholic community, remains one of the few ethnic/religious groups without an organised and coordinated voice with which to speak to all levels of government.”

“This initiative is the first step in creating such an organisation so that we have a vehicle to engage constructively on both these matters.

“We are very keen to work with all progressive organisations, political organisations, community organisations and trade unions to address this issue and we will be seeking their support for specific initiatives.”

A spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said: “Efforts to document and record examples of bigotry and hate crime should be welcomed and encouraged and will hopefully encourage greater reporting.

– The meeting will take place at 7pm on Monday October 29 in St Anne’s Primary School, Glasgow



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