Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Dark Sludge of Sectarianism

The sectarian chants spat out by the knuckle dragging element of the Newco fan base were picked up on the ESPN microphones and broadcast all over the world.  They were an utter embarrassment to Scotland and demonstrate clearly that Charles Green has his first real challenge on his hands. So far he has pandered to the Newco’s persecution complex and the utter fantasy that the rest of Scottish football, in a fit of jealousy and rage, ganged up to kill the Oldco. Does this bluff little Yorkshireman know what the songs his new club’s fans sing are all about?  Can there be any confusion over lyrics such as…

‘Oh no Pope of Rome,  no chapels to sadden my eye
no nuns and no Priests,  no Rosary beads
every day is the 12th of July’

If you’re still a little mystified at such a medieval outlook on life from some of your fans Charles and feel it may be light hearted football banter, then I suggest you try a little experiment.  Take the line from a song heard today and substitute the word ‘Fenian’ with the word Jew, Paki or Muslim…..

‘We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood, surrender or you’ll die…’

Any decent society would expect the owner of a club who have supporters expressing such xenophobic intolerance to speak out vociferously against the poison of sectarianism. This is Mr Green’s first opportunity to prove he is a more than a pandering salesman. Sadly instead of an outright condemnation from the Newco what we got was a Rangers spokesman who said:

"The club is disappointed by certain outbursts of inappropriate singing by a section of the support at Berwick."

Disappointed? Vile sectarian chanting is a cause for disgust among decent people not ‘disappointment.’ If these sentiments were expressed about Jews or Black people there would be outrage. Why is it only a cause for ‘Disappointment’ when the Irish community or Catholics are reviled in this manner? Therin lies the problem in Scotland, we are so used to hearing this bile that it fails to have the shock value it would to a foreigner hearing it afresh. Ally McCoist then spoke of his club’s fans being ‘Sensational home and away’ this season conveniently forgetting other instances of sectarian chanting and ‘Paedo Free in Division Three’ type banners. What is going on in Scottish society when such vile behaviour leads to a couple of arrests only when it is pointed out to the Police by the ESPN presenter Ray Stubbs? The harassment and constant surveillance of the Green Brigade is an astonishing over reaction to the 5% of their songbook which, while being Republican in nature, is certainly not racist or sectarian. Police resources wasted at Celtic Park would be better spent trailing the bigots in blue around Scotland and knocking on their doors at 6am.

As I listened to the expected avalanche of calls in the football phone-in on the Berwick shame, I counted the minutes until Celtic were dragged into this tale of woe. It took precisely 4 minutes for the Super Score Board team to start the ‘Old Firm have a minority of fans who do this sort of thing’ party line.  This tiresome knee jerk reaction is entirely predictable. We even had another ‘John’ call in and say with a sort of twisted honesty that it’s to be expected as ‘Rangers are a Protestant Club.’  This twisted notion that the Reformed branch of Christianity must by definition be anti-Catholic belongs in the seventeenth century. Similarly the notion of Rangers being a ‘Protestant Club’ is as outdated as flared trousers and tank tops. The ‘John’s’ of the world form part of what Graham Spiers once called the ‘White Underclass who cling to Rangers.’ Old certainties of employment, identity and a meagre amount of privilege have evaporated leaving the ‘John’s’ of the world with nothing but their hatred. Spiers’ also said that there was a ‘Social Poison’ at the heart of Rangers. Until the authorities act and the club has the balls to lambast, find and ban these racists and bigots then that poison will fester. Today’s events weren’t a minor ‘disappointment’, they were an echo of unacceptable bigotry and the decent people of Scotland want this rooted out and dealt with. Our Grandparents put up with this nonsense with barely a complaint, our parents protested and rest assured we’ll roar it out so that our children don’t have to hear the same moronic nonsense in the future.

I don’t have much in common with David Trimble. His politics and his actions during the Drumcree stand off in 1995 mean that we would not be very likely to be found sharing a beer in the Emerald Isle Bar in the Gallowgate. However he did say something interesting about bigotry of the sort we saw and heard at Berwick today….

The dark shadow we see in the distance is not really a mountain ahead, but the shadow of the mountain behind - a shadow from the past thrown forward into our future. It is a dark sludge of historical sectarianism. We can leave it behind us if we wish.’’

It is to be hoped that the ‘dark sludge of sectarianism’ can be left in Scotland’s past too. It may not have the violent intensity associated with the conflict in the north of Ireland but it is an unacceptable social evil and we should all condemn it utterly and in unmistakable language, even Charles Green and Ally McCoist.  


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