DUP MP and ardent Cream Buns fan Gregory Campbell this week sent a letter to Celtic to state his opposition to ‘pro-IRA’ songs and chants at Paradise. According to Greg he got his Orange Order Y-fronts in a twist because Rangers have attempted to tackle the issue of sectarianism while Celtic have not.
Gregs latest rant raises a number of issues.
Firstly he claims that Rangers have done enough to stamp out sectarianism. This is a blatant, bare faced lie. He obviously has not heard of the spuds that were thrown at Barry Robson, accompanied by hisses of “the famines over why don’t you fuck off home”. He must not have seen the banners with ‘Nakamura ate my dog’ on them. His ears must have been else where when Cream Bun fans were singing Damn Busters to Andres Hinkel? Perhaps he has not heard about the savage attack on Neil Lennon last month? To Greg Rangers have sorted this out, but to anyone with an iota of intelligence the issue is far from resolved!
Lets just look for a minute at some of the ‘pro-IRA’ songs that are irking Greg of the Rangers.
Aiden Mc Anespie is a favourite amongst the Hooped faithful, particularly at away games. This song is about a young GAA member gunned down in cold blood by British armed forces. Many GAA fans also support Celtic, so I hope that goes someway to helping Greg realise why it is sung by Celtic fans. Furthermore the song is not in any way sectarian, and could only be construed as such by someone with a very obvious ulterior agenda!
The Fields of Athenrye is another favourite. It is a song about the Great Starvation. Thousands of Irish immigrants poured into Glasgow after fleeing the disease and starvation at home. The East End became one of the strongest Irish Diasporas about. Celtic was established to help the fledging Irish community. When it was formed in St Marys Hall, it was a clear and natural progression from Andrew Kerrins Poor Children’s Dinner Table. As such it is only natural that Celtic fans, many of whom are descendents of the original immigrants, are going to identify with the plight of their ancestors. It is only natural that they are going to sing songs about their past.
Furthermore it is only natural that Celtic fans can identify with republicanism and the IRA. Their ancestors bore the brunt of some of the worst displays of anti-Irish bigotry ever demonstrated. The riots in Greenock are testament to this fact. Mistreatment, degradation, humiliation and exploitation are the summary of the experience of the Glasgow Irish. This was institutionalised and was only ever effectively addressed in the mid 1990’s. A lot remains unaddressed. A statue of King Billy on Glasgow’s High Street kept the Irish in place, whilst the rampant anti-Catholic bigotry forced many to live in fear.
However despite this the Irish in Glasgow grew to better their adoptive city. Celtic grew to become one of Europes biggest footballing forces. This is testament to the tenacity of gallant Irish immigrants like Andrew Kerrins, and conscientious Scots like John Mc Lean. Without them the Glasgow Irish would still be marginalised and oppressed. Mc Lean stood up for the Irish in the aftermath of 1916 when no one else would. Furthermore there were 5000 IRA volunteers in Glasgow in the period between 1916-21. Foremost among them was Commandant Ian Mc Kenzie-Smith. This is as much part of the history of the Glasgow Irish as it is Ireland.
As for the modern republican songs, they too have an explanation. Whilst Catholics in the six counties were marginalised by state institutions, Catholics of Irish descent in Glasgow ere also subjected to some of the worst forms of religious and racial discrimination. Indeed it was not until 1992 that Catholics became equal in the eyes of Scottish law. So it is not out of some tribal allegiance the songs are sung but out of genuine empathy with the struggle of Nationalists in the six counties. Indeed many had and still have family connections in the six counties.
So the next time Greg gets hot under his Orange collar about republican songs he should stop and ponder why Celtic fans have come to identify with republicanism. Perhaps had the forces of law and order that Greg prides himself on refused to indulge anti-Irish bigotry then these chants would not be ringing out around Parkhead. The majority of fans have no problem with such songs. Celtic ‘PLC’ are attempting to do the dirty work for people like Greg, by stopping us from singing songs about our history. The real fans it seems have no say, it is only the opinion of a certain war monger that counts. However they fail to realise that whilst true Celtic fans row in behind projects like ‘Let the People Sing’ our songs about our history will always be sung at Parkhead whether Orange Bully boys like Greg like it or not!!!
For those wanting to lend their support to the ‘Let the People Sing’ project log on to www.talfanzine.com for more details.