BY Daniel Harkins | November 2 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Campaign is seeking your stories of discrimination

Catholic experiences of discrimination need to be compiled and recorded, a public meeting to combat anti-Catholicism and anti-Irish racism was told on Monday.

The first meeting of the Call it Out campaign was held in St Anne’s Primary School in Glasgow, with two police officers present after the event was forced to move venues as a result of threatening phone calls.

Police, who turned up unprompted, told organisers they were acting on intelligence that a ‘Protestant group’ planned to attend the meeting.

Around 80 people were in attendance at the meeting to launch the campaign against ‘anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism.’

The campaign formed after recent high profile examples of anti-Catholicism, including an alleged assault during an Orange Walk on Canon Tom White, who is supporting the group.

Organisers told the meeting that they are seeking to combat greater rates of poverty and social deprivation in Catholic communities, provide resources that will be available to schools on anti-Catholicism, collate experiences of discrimination and prevent Orange walks from marching past Catholic churches.

Danny Boyle, of BEMIS, an umbrella body for Scotland’s ethnic minorities, told the meeting that there has been a lot of talking about the issues of anti-Catholicism and anti-Irish racism but a lack of talking directly to the community itself.

No other community, he said, would be expected to tolerate the same level of discrimination and ‘not be shouting from the rooftops,’ and he added that the group’s aim was to ensure that the issue is no longer described as ‘sectarianism’ but as ‘anti-Catholicism.’

Mr Boyle’s views were echoed by Jeanette Findlay, of Glasgow University, who said the campaign is ‘about calling it what it is,’ adding that the ‘problem is not some generalised sectarianism.’

She said the group recognises that ‘there are non-Catholic Irish, and non-Irish Catholics’ and emphasised that the group is not focussed on the West of Scotland alone.

She explained how one Aberdeen woman had been in touch asking for her own story of discrimination to be shared with the meeting.

The woman, Ms Findlay said, came to Scotland in 2006 from Belfast and had suffered casual racism, had songs sung at her by work colleagues about the Irish Great Hunger, and had her complaints dismissed by management as ‘banter’ and ‘playing the victim.’

Concerns were raised at the meeting of the suitability of current education materials on sectarianism available to schools, of structural discrimination through the Act of Settlement—which bans Catholics from ascending to the throne—of a dismissive attitude in the media, and of the unique situation where Glasgow is one of the only cities in the world with a significant Irish Diaspora and no St Patrick’s Day parade.

However, the issues of Orange walks dominated discussions. Organisers stressed that the group will not campaign to ban Orange walks, however they will seek to prevent the marches going past Catholic churches.

The group will aim to organise protests in such cases, with Ms Findlay saying its goal would be to ensure no ‘anti-Catholic march goes past a church without a witness to say ‘this is wrong.’’

The group will also seek to work with other victimised minority communities in Scotland, and is asking for Catholics to offer up their skills to help. “We need your knowledge, your evidence,” Mr Boyle said.

“We will work alongside other communities such as the Muslim community —our voices are stronger together.”

James Kelly, an MSP for the Glasgow region, attended the meeting. Speaking afterwards, he backed the new group and said there has been a gap for a campaigning body on issues of anti-Catholicism.

“There is a role for the Church leadership but there is also a role for a grassroots campaign group that can focus on civil rights and liberties for Catholics and Irish Catholics around Scotland and hopefully that voice can be heard in the media and lobby government to make a difference,” he said.

Addressing the concerns expressed at the meeting about Orange walks, he said: “As a result of recent events the routes of all marches need to be reviewed and take into consideration venues like Catholic churches.”

He said there ‘should be no further marches going past St Alphonsus’, outside of which Canon White was allegedly assaulted, and he added: “In terms of future routes, we respect the right of Orange marches to take place but the routes need to be handled sensitively with regard to the Catholic community.”

On the issue of education resources in schools he said: “It’s important that breadth of traditions of strong Catholic heritage and strong Irish traditions are not only celebrated but that there is a recognition of that in our education system—that is what is missing.”

Last week, 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.

“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,” he said.

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

 

You can send your stories of anti-Catholicism or anti-Irish racism to the SCO by email at info@sconews.co.uk or by post at 19 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6BT, 0141 221 4956.

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