Being Irish Means You're Guilty...
The recent Glasgow Cup final between Celtic under 17 side and the newco colts was an eye opener. Approaching the stadium it was obvious that there was tension in the air. Strains of the ‘Famine Song’ drifted up from the London Road and huge numbers of Police officers were on duty apparently determined to ignore such violations of the law. The atmosphere inside the stadium was awful and in truth the away support were the chief culprits in terms of the vile repertoire of songs they sung. From the ‘Billy Boys’ to songs about paedophilia and of course the aforementioned famine song, they left no depth unplumbed. It was a demonstration of utter hatred which was as depressing as it was predictable. I recall saying to a friend, ‘No doubt the press will write about the ‘Old Firm’ bigots tomorrow and ignore the fact that most of the poison came from one side.’ I was right.
‘Old Firm Shame blights showcase for young talent’ said one paper and the rest of the tabloids ran with that general theme. The facts never seem to get in the way of a good story with our friends in the tabloids. ‘Seats damaged by Old Firm thugs’ we were told despite the fact that all the damaged seats, said to be £10,000 worth, were all in the away end. Compare this reporting to the front page slating of the ‘Green Brigade’ for damaged seats at Motherwell a few months back. There was no evidence at Motherwell that any members of the Green Brigade had broken seats by hey, why let that spoil a good mud throwing story. Most of us began ignoring the tabloid trash years ago when it was obvious that some so called ‘Journalists’ were more interested in levelling up the old firm score than in reporting the truth. This season we have had sectarian singing at Ibrox on numerous occasions which passed with little or no comment. We saw frankly disgraceful scenes of serving British military personnel joining in songs of a very dubious nature at Ibrox and now the Famine Song returns only to be greeted with the usual ‘Old Firm’ naughty boys at it again from the press. Perhaps they are unaware that the ‘Old Firm’ ended in 2012 when Rangers were liquidated but they are surely not deaf to the vile songs being sung with impunity by a large minority among the new club’s fans?
Today Anthony Stokes was again the target of sections of our media. He was, according to the Daily Record…’Caught’ on stage with a ‘Pro-IRA’ singer at the ‘Notorious’ Rock Bar in the Falls Road. Is this an even handed portrayal of events? The ‘Journalist’ then states that a few days previously the Bar had hosted the ‘Notorious’ singer Bik McFarlane. Interesting but absolutely nothing to do with Stokes visit there. This attempted demonization of all things Republican is extremely poor journalism as well as morally dubious in a so called democracy. Nationalist songs are part of the heritage and folk memory of the Irish people and they need feel no shame in singing them. Stokes is a Dubliner and that city is Capital of a Republic because men fought and died for their independence against great odds. The underlying message of the Daily Record’s article is that an Irish man, singing Irish songs in Ireland is somehow offensive. Utter nonsense, within the bounds of the law and common decency, any of us should be free to sing whatever we want. This isn’t Nazi Germany or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. By the Tabloids putrid standards anyone who has gone to a Wolfe Tones or Christy Moore concert should in some way be ashamed. Well sorry chums, I’m not and many thousands of others who refuse to buy your simplistic and rather crude world view aren’t either. This trial by media reminds me of the lyric of an old Irish song:
’Not for them a judge nor jury
Nor indeed a crime at all
If being Irish means we’re guilty,
So we’re guilty one and all.’
I would no more condemn a man for singing an Irish historical song than I would for singing a Scottish one. The Green Brigade made that very point succinctly with their Sands/Wallace banners. Of course Stokes as a Celtic player needs to think before he acts but for the press to ignore literally hundreds singing the Famine Song on their doorstep then run a huge piece on one man singing a song in Belfast, if indeed he did, is scurrilous reporting.
I have been quick to state in the past that I disagree with the singing of political songs at football. That remains my position but I am becoming heartily sick of the biased, inaccurate reporting of events surrounding Celtic supporters. For instance, the Sun reported on the Glasgow Cup Final with a picture labelled ‘Celtic fan with a flare.’ The picture attached to the report of the game was over 5 years old! They were quick to put a small, almost invisible apology on their website when angry Celtic fans challenged them but the picture had gone out and the ‘they’re all the same’ message had been foisted on anyone stupid enough to read that rag. It was passed off as an ‘error by a junior reporter’ but this sort of thing happens to often to be accidental.
The best defence we can have against such reporting is to be united as a support to challenge and ridicule the distortions. We also need our club to listen to the fans and back them publicly on occasion. Without the fans the club is nothing but far too often they have remained silent when some of our fans need their support. That needs to change.