BY Ian Dunn | March 11 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

5-PETER-KEARNEY

Funds to fight bigotry need focus

— Spokesman for the Catholic Church comments after summit on football and sectarian violence

A spokesman for the Catholic Church has challenged news that the Scottish Government is to give over £500,000 to anti-sectarianism charities, saying the funds will be wasted if not properly targeted.

The Scottish Government announced the new funding before Tuesday’s summit between Celtic and Rangers, the Scottish Football Association and the police over violence at recent games between the two Glasgow football clubs.

Concerns

Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, told the SCO that new funding package for seven groups, including Sense over Sectarianism, Nil by Mouth and Show Racism the Red Card, may not represent good value for money for the tax payer or be the best way forward.

“It’s crucial that anti-sectarian funds are very carefully targeted where they can have the most impact and to date it doesn’t seem to have been,” he said. “The Church would welcome the opportunity to engage with ministers on how this can be achieved.”

Mr Kearney has previously been critical of charities like Nil by Mouth saying they do not focus enough on anti-Catholicism.

“You have these organisations based in Glasgow, that take a one size fits all approach to the problem,” he said last month. “They say things like ‘intolerance is bad’ which is fine but that kind of vague approach doesn’t actually achieve much. There needs to be a more specific approach. One initiative I went to involved holding up a football shirt that was half-Celtic and half-Rangers. That is superficial and amounts to telling people to abandon their identity.”

Summit

First Minister Alex Salmond organised this week’s summit after being contacted by Strathclyde Police chiefs in the aftermath of the game between Celtic and Rangers last week which saw 34 arrests in the stadium, most of them for sectarian breach of the peace.

In the days that followed there were numerous death threats against Neil Lennon, the Catholic manager of Celtic.

Strathclyde Police said they wanted the summit due to spiraling levels of violence around Old Firm games.

“There can be no doubt that the levels of drunken violence that have blighted our communities and the number of people who have been arrested due to their sectarian behaviour is simply unacceptable,” a police statement stated. “Something has to be done.”

Solutions offered

Proposals that have emerged from the summit include players receiving pre-match briefings from police; efforts to reduce alcohol consumption in and around grounds on Old Firm match days; a new fixture schedule and the extension of football banning orders.

A joint action plan produced by the meeting contained six points:

— The creation of a stand-alone pan-Scotland police football intelligence unit as part of the ongoing review of police forces in Scotland.

— Greater enforcement of existing legislation to deal with sectarianism and drink related offences,

— The establishment of a task force comprising senior police officers, government representatives and club security personnel to deliver more consistency in policing of football matches across Scotland.

— A detailed academic study into the extent of the linkage of football to violent crime committed domestically and in the community.

— Celtic and Rangers will commit to playing an enhanced role in a partnership approach to encourage responsible drinking.

— A re-inforced code of conduct for players and officials.

— ian@sconews.co.uk

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