By Joe O’rourke ,General Secretary of the Celtic Supporters Association.
Considering Celtic Manager Neil Lennon was receiving threats from immediately after our victory at Snake Mountain at New Year; it was strange that the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, Stephen House waited until after the so-called “Shame Game” in March to announce his concerns about the behaviour of supporters within Scottish Football.
House’s budget was under threat, and there was also the prospect of one Police Force to cover the whole country; that new force would need a leader; so getting yourself in the public eye would certainly improve your profile.
House then began to blame all the ills of Scottish society, from sectarian and racist abuse to domestic violence on football supporters; and not surprisingly Alex Salmond stopped the bandwagon at Holyrood and jumped on (just as well it wasn’t a tram).
Salmond like House seen an opportunity to raise his profile and endear himself to the electorate; he painted a picture of drunken obnoxious football supporters; rampaging through the day; before going home to batter their wives at night; absolute nonsense!!!
Salmond proceeded to push his new proposals through Parliament by calling a summit of those he believed would agree with him; unfortunately for him that back-fired; because everyone except the Police dis-agreed with his knee-jerk reaction.
His next move was to go through the Justice Committee route; obviously that committee enjoyed an SNP majority; so therefore couldn’t fail to deliver; his problem was; the people he had speaking on behalf of the SNP made a complete mess of it; and further alienated themselves from the rest of the committee; and indeed the general public.
First of all we had Roseanna Cunningham talking about seeing Celtic supporters gesticulating towards Rangers supporters by making the sign of the cross aggressively across some open land; therefore suggesting that making “The Sign of the Cross” could be deemed to be offensive.
We then had the Justice Committee Chairperson Christine Grahame claiming that we needed a new law as the present law tended to convict Rangers fans for singing songs which were deemed to be sectarian; while the songs sung by Celtic fans were deemed to be political; and in fact; IT WAS NOT EVEN.
The fact of the matter is this; the existing law is suffice to handle any acts of sectarianism or racism in Scotland; that was proved with the jailing for eight months of Stephen Birrell for his sectarian actions on the internet; that is what is possible if the authorities do the job properly; this of course didn’t happen under the scrutiny of the Prosecuting Fiscal in Edinburgh; in the case of John Wilson.
Here we had a guy who had admitted assaulting Neil Lennon; his solicitor had admitted his client had indeed assaulted Neil Lennon; but for some reason the video evidence; which was seen all around the world was not shown in court. Then to crown it all, the jury, which I believe was selected from the Larkhall post code area found the case “NOT PROVEN”.
One of the main opponents of the proposed new legislation is the Catholic Church; they also see it as another attack on the Catholic population of Scotland; along with the SNP’s proposals for same sex marriages being conducted in religious ceremonies as well as civil ceremonies; they may just alienate the Catholic vote at the next election; or even sooner; when he holds his Independence referendum.
The Church had asked for the data on sectarian attacks since 2003; it was astonishing to find out that the data from 2003 until 2010 had been destroyed by the Crown Office during the term of the previous Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini; apparently the data suggested that the majority of victims of sectarian attacks was Roman Catholics; and the majority of attacks happened; prior to; during; and after Orange Parades.
I have to say I have serious concerns about the new Lord Advocate Frank Mullholland; like Salmond and House he appears to be promoting himself rather than the well-being of the people of Scotland; including football supporters.
I think Salmond is now fearful for his chances of getting his new bill approved by the other parties at Holyrood; he has painted himself into a corner and he can’t get out; so to improve his chances he is interfering in police operational decisions in Scotland to try and show there is a need for the new law; after the peaceful public demonstration in George Square on Saturday; we had a heavy police presence in the front of the Green Brigade’s section during the match against Hibs later in the afternoon.
With about 10 minutes to go the police moved in to arrest one supporter; they appeared to barge their way in ignoring the fact that there were children and older supporters in their way; this was done in a disciplined manner; it was a definite strategy being conducted from the control room; or maybe even from police headquarters; that is a very worrying new development; and a clear sign that both the Police and the Government will do anything in their power to make sure this proposed new bill will become law.
So what can we do to oppose this proposed new bill; first of all contact your local MSP and demand that he/she votes against the bill becoming law; this is particularly important if you live in a constituency why has a small majority; impress on them the fact that they would lose their seat if the Catholic/Irish/Celtic vote was against them.
There will be more public demonstrations and meetings; we will need to take the campaign to Holyrood itself and demonstrate outside the Parliament; and if the police continue to act in a hostile manner towards the Celtic support; we will take the fight to their doorstep as well.
All Celtic fans have a part to play; we don’t ask everyone to get on the platform with a mega-phone in hand; just being there is playing your part; the bigger the crowd; the louder the message becomes; we will keep you informed of the next step in the campaign; I look forward to the continued support from the greatest fans in the world.
Follow Joe on Twitter @orourke3 and at the C.S.A web site http://www.thecsa.co.uk/
TCN would like to thank Joe for taking the time to write this article