Offended By The Irish

Celtic 2Once again, the media can’t help itself.

A display of staggering sectarian bile at Stark’s Park, hot on the heels of the League Cup Final shame, and they are, once more, looking around for someone else to blame so they don’t have to condemn the Sevco supporters for their deplorable behaviour.

There was a time when they denied this problem even existed, playing the game deaf, dumb and blind. That was until UEFA forced them to confront it, and put the ball up on the slates. They changed tactics, and went on to the Whatabouttery we all know so well.

We are told, constantly, that we cannot take the Sevco fans behaviour in isolation.

Why can’t we?

There were no Celtic fans at the Raith Rovers game. There was no illegal singing from them at Hampden.

The law is pretty clear on the Famine Song and the Billy Boys.

They are anthems of hate, as are much of what this section of the Sevco fans sing.

The legislation that covers them aren’t called Hate Crime laws for nothing.

This is why the moral equivalence is so infuriating.

I’m not here to indulge in Whatabouttery. I know – and we all know – what the Sevco fans are singing about and why it’s wrong. I’m here to do what we’re always being encouraged to do … to focus on our own. I am here to talk about Celtic fans and the songs we sing.

For once, let’s not beat around the bush. I’ve tried dancing around this issue, and I’ve tried approaching it with finesse.

It’s time simply to drive a tank right through it and stop with the messing about.

Songs about the Irish Republican Army are not illegal and nor should they be.

I don’t think they belong at the football, but if some are offended by them too bad.

Those are war songs, right? They are political songs whether people like it or not, as the forced wearing of the poppy on jerseys is a political expression. You doubt it? Check out the treatment meted out to people James McLean for refusing to.

What happened in the Six Counties was war. There was no declaration, but it was a military campaign where British troops were involved and where two communities, for complex reasons which are wholly irrelevant to this debate, took up arms.

It has happened all over the world. The most powerful country on Earth, the United States, ended British rule via revolutionary – military – means.

The Six Counties conflict ended in a political settlement. There was even an amnesty for the people who were involved.

People who fought on both sides of it are now sitting in the highest offices in the land over in there.

Those are facts. None are in dispute.

People are offended by songs sung about that conflict. That’s not exactly a shock, because there are two sides in a war and on one side of it people are always going to be offended by the other. Others are just offended … because. Because they think they should be. Because they are easily offended, the kind of people who write venomous letters to newspapers over plot points on Eastenders.

You know the sort. “Signed, Disgusted of Tumbridge Wells …”

But you know what? There is no law that protects people from being offended. Period.

A lot of things offend me. I live with them, because it’s part of an open society.

I don’t seek to use them as cover for my own prejudices.

Nor do I hide behind them because I’m too cowardly to tell the truth.

I have completely run out of patience with all the people whose own intolerance, bias and bigotry, who’s inability to accept that a multicultural society means accepting different points of view, that inclusiveness means putting up with things that make you uncomfortable, would seek to limit my freedoms and the freedoms of my friends.

It’s not “progressive” in any way, shape or form. It is scandalous.

It is not an enlightened viewpoint but one founded on utter ignorance.

Celtic is a Scottish club whose roots are in Ireland. That might be unpalatable for a lot of people in this country, but hard lines.

Many of the people who say “oh we don’t need this in our football grounds” could not sound less convincing if they tried, and I would respect these people more if they stopped shovelling their own steaming crap in my direction and said it straight out the way that horrible section of the Sevco support does; “Why don’t you go home?”

Cause then I could tell those people what I tell the gutter dregs who sing it.

We are home.

Some of us who were born on Scottish soil still feel Ireland in our hearts and in our souls and that ain’t ever going to change.

We’re here, we’ve been here for more than 100 years, generations of us, and we are going nowhere.

Like it or lump it.

If you’re not comfortable with that … then tell you what, I’ll help you pack your bags.

Off to the “white’s only homeland” with you and your sectarian brood.

Oh I guess you could head south, to England, but I’d stay away from major cities where there are Irish everywhere and who, unlike up here, aren’t persecuted for it and feel no need to hide the flag in a drawer or watch what they sing of a Saturday night.

I’d also stay out of much of Western Europe, because you’ll find tolerance is a necessity when living in a foreign land where most people don’t keep a copy of The Patter for reference when dealing with globe-trotting Scots from the hinterland.

Asia is out for the closet (or not so closet) bigot, and Africa … well I am sure you can guess.

There are little enclaves in North America … but not as many as Charles Green would have you believe, and sooner or later your brain will explode when you come across your first memorial to the Irish Famine.

Likewise Australia, which might have happily taken some of your forefathers but is now a lot pickier about who it lets spoil its sandy beaches.

The simple fact is that a lot of people out there just don’t like the Irish, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s the songs or if it’s the flag or if it’s the accent …. They simply can’t keep circuits from tripping in their heads when they encounter anything to do with the land across the water.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks hearing this “moral equivalence” cobblers, reading comments from folk who, on the surface, appear to want to leech the poison of Scottish society, but you know what? This anti-Irish intolerance is the poison … and whether it courses through their blood or not is largely a side issue as far as I’m concerned.

Their attitude reinforces that of the bigots by giving their hate some form of legitimacy, and an echo in the wider community.

Maybe I’m wrong. People have been trying to tell me, for years, that I live in a country where anti-Irish hate flows up every crack in the road, and I’ve never listened to it, never wanted to hear it perhaps. Maybe the problem is the wider community.

Listening to certifiably dumb hacks like Hugh Keevins, and reading the typically nonsensical ramblings of Keith Jackson you see glimpses of that. Jackson’s latest piece, which masquerades as something trying to be balanced, gives itself away by that very thing. There is no balance here. There is no commonality between the songs Sevco fans sing and the ones Celtic fans do.

One set of songs is criminal. The other set bothers people for reasons only they understand … but that’s not restricted to Scottish football or to life in this fair land. It’s something most adults learn to deal with. We don’t agree with everything we hear, or read or see.

Keevins’ disgusting assertion that Celtic fans singing the Irish National Anthem “shames” our club is either a guy trying to be provocative (which is loathsome in a journalist) or a guy simply out of his mind … either way, it’s a deplorable statement.

I think Keevins and Jackson are bigots. It comes across in their work every once in a while.

If bigotry is based on ignorance, as I’ve long contended, then they certainly meet the initial qualifying criteria. I heard the podcast of the other night’s Clyde phone in; I pretty much had to, as it’s become quite the talking point online.

I listened to it with my usual exasperation and an undercurrent of anger that grew as it went on.

Keevins’ was prompted by a wholly witless clown who intially phoned in to complain about hearing The Soldiers Song, but who quickly expanded his attack to include the tri-colour, and he was very careful not only to mention Celtic but dragged Hibs fans into it too.

It prompted Keevins to the incredible – and fictitious – assertion that “Celtic has always been the Catholic club”, an argument so moronic all but the bitterest Sevco fans no longer bother with it.

But it’s the hate of that flag that bugs me most. That hate undoubtedly runs deep in this country.

Just seeing that flag does things to people, as if it was the flag itself that was provoking anger and not just some uncontrollable well of irrational loathing inside themselves.

I call it irrational because, well, frankly, no other word works.

See, that hate proves that their whole emotional response is not grounded in any understanding at all … the flag is not the divisive symbol their pathetic, underdeveloped brains suppose … far from it.

The green stands for the Catholics of that island … the orange for the Protestants. The white in between is not a divider but the colour of peace. The Republic movement chose a flag that was not only deliberately non-sectarian but was actually inclusive.

That, of course, is the last thing these people want to know.

But what did they think the orange represented? Did they think it just looked good next to green?

For God’s sake … if you object to that banner something is seriously wrong with you.

The songs … well, that one really has to be tackled and I might as well have a go.

I hear a lot about the songs, mostly from people blessed with no understanding of what the songs refer to.

That argument too is used both ways.

“Do you think,” someone I respect asked me recently, “the people who sing those songs have the first clue what they are about?”

Not all of them, no. But is that a deal breaker? Check these out.

Rewrite the book and rule the pages
Saving face, secured in faith
Bury, burn the waste behind you

This land is the land of ours, this river runs red over it
We are not your allies, we cannot defend ….

Know what that’s about? It’s about US history, about the county’s treatment of the Native Americans and about how their lands were polluted and spoiled.

It’s a socio-political song by REM from the 1986 album Life’s Rich Pageant.

The song’s called Cuyahoga, which is a river in Ohio.

How many REM fans do you reckon know every word, but not the backstory?

Should we forbid them from singing about such an emotive subject until they can pass Basic American History?

Should the band be careful where they play it … in case it offends people?

I challenged a guy on this blog just the other day. He was raving about Celtic fans singing songs about blowing up his countrymen. I made him an offer, and I repeat that offer to everyone else out there who labours under this ignorance that such songs are sung.

If you can name me just one song from the selection of “rebel tunes” that have been sung by large numbers of people in the stands at Celtic Park or when the club travels away from home, just one that actually celebrates or glorifies or calls for the killing of a single enemy – and this should be easy if the Celtic fan’s songs are as hate filled as you say – I will shut down this website on the same day.

I will never write another word here again.

Go for it. Give it your best shot. It’s put up or shut up time.

This nonsense that Celtic fans sing songs that glorify the murder of civilians or soldiers needs to be put to bed once and for all.

And then there’s the old chestnut about how they commemorate a “terrorist group” that murdered thousands of people.

You know what they say about one man’s freedom fighter right?

It’s especially hard to argue against when some of those people are now in government.

You might as well rail against Flower of Scotland, about our own violent revolution. It’s not even got The Soldiers Song “defence” of being a national anthem. You could just as easily vote to ban Free Nelson Mandela or talk about how offended you feel by The Star Spangled Banner.

That’s an anti-British song, don’t you know?

There is a clear distinction between these songs and hate songs … and although political songs might not be your cup of tea, if someone sings The Red Flag in a pub those who’re not of a leftist persuasion don’t go automatically nuts.

A version of that song is sung at Old Trafford. Yet another version is frequently heard at Sunderland and a third at Bristol City.

Here in Scotland a lot of clubs take advertising money from the SNP, so when we hear some of the voices associated with the independence campaign talking about taking politics out of the sport I really do want to laugh.

What they really mean is “let’s take Irish politics out of football … because that … upsets people.”

I am past caring who it upsets.

Enough of this “one side as bad as the other” crap.

If you’re looking at any of it with an open mind you know it doesn’t stand up at all.

When you look at what “Disgusted, of Larkhall” actually has to say, it’s not hard to read between the lines when they cry about “offensive songs.”

They are offended by anything Irish. It’s as simple as that.

The sooner we stop pandering to these people the better.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

30 thoughts on “Offended By The Irish

  • 23 February, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    A great piece I can see and do most certainly agree with your anger at the injustice of it all.

  • 23 February, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Wow James! One of your best mate. I\’ve never posted before but just felt I had to let you know how good that made me feel reading that. I look forward to reading all your stuff. You really can deliver. They complain about our songs but think it\’s ok to sing the famine song? I had the misfortune to read the words to that for the first time last night. OMG! Words fail me. Keep up the good work James. HH

  • 23 February, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Excellent piece,and true to the point.
    More power to your pen mate HAIL HAIL.

  • 23 February, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    James another good article,again so true,Many years ago worked with a Rankers supporter,he had a terrible hate of anything Irish,being me I Ignored him along with many others,sad person, H H

  • 23 February, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Great piece James. Says it all.

  • 23 February, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    Excellent James – bloody excellent!!

    Its high time we ALL began to fight back against the bigots and the poisonous establishment.

    Keep up the good work and bin a Daily Record today!

  • 23 February, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    Sorry been a Celtic Supporter of Irish stock all my life but I totally disagree with your assertions on this one.
    We cannot take the high ground about what the buns may sing about…. and then condone the signing of Republican or other Irish Political material at Parkhead or any other ground.
    Celtic FC is a football club end of…….any justification for the clap trap you are talking about here belongs outside of the Football environment.It is time this bubble was burst in the West of Scotland .Celtic should be rightly proud of its Irish roots but you cant have two sets of rules just because you lean on one side of the fence

  • 23 February, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    I’m not even attempting to suggest we take “moral high ground.” I am not remotely interested in that.

    This article is about us. It’s not an indulgence in whatabouttery.

    I don’t “condone” the singing of anything. I don’t believe those songs belong in a football stadium any more than you do … but I’m certainly not in favour of banning them. This nonsense that you can take the politics out of football grounds is exactly that … nonsense.

    Their songs are illegal, whether racist or sectarian. Political expression is not illegal nor should it be.

    If your issue is that they offend people, what else to do you want us to ditch because it might do that? How about we change the colour of the jersey to something less … annoying?

    What about the clubs name? What about moving to the K-sounding C? Just in case? Or something even less offensive to their poor sensibilities than that?

    I’m not sure what “bubble” you want burst here. We’re a Scottish-Irish club and the only place where people have a problem with that is here in Scotland … and hard lines to them.

  • 23 February, 2015 at 11:47 pm


    Another in a long line of fantastic pieces.

    Probably even stronger if I can point out that the green in the tricolor represents the Gaelic (not Catholic) tradition with the orange representing the followers of William of Orange (not Protestant) tradition.

    The Gaelic tradition has never had an exclusive Catholic ethos (eg Tone, Emmet, etc) just as Celtic has never been exclusively Catholic (eg Mr Stein, Daniel Fergus, etc).

    Religious shorthand does no service to our club or to the tricolor.

    As always, I enjoy your work.


  • 24 February, 2015 at 12:57 am

    As always bang on the money. Thanks for articulating what is indeed true.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 3:04 am

    well written,a don\’t usually comment,but that was good stuff,how the media will change?it\’s simple,they never will-even ex Celtic players are sucked into the shite—I\’ve been watching Celtic @ 13yrs wi the Lions NOTHING changes,keep your script alive–who knows…HH…

  • 24 February, 2015 at 5:18 am

    Good work James. Some things are unpalatable for the mindless among the Klan, this should help to set the record straight. I, like yourself, don’t think certain IRA songs should be sung at the football, but as you say, neither then should Flower of Scotland etc as they are in the same vein. You cannot have it both ways-unless you have an agenda! HH

  • 24 February, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Interesting to note ILSONBHOYs assertion that Celtic are a football club,”end of!” Well,not according to the club itself that celebrates itself as,er,”more than a football club”. I,and I suspect,most fans would agree with the latter. Our,uniqueness owes itself to our history,our back story if you like. I can handle ignorant clowns who are offended by this,purely because I’ve been surrounded by them all my life,but its those among our own support who,perhaps persuaded by media nonsense,find any expression of Irishness nauseating. This is literally the only country in the world where such attitudes exist. Its no coincidence that there is a huge and powerful institution of Irish origin dominating the national sport. A source of angst for over a century to many. We’ve always been an inclusive club,we welcome support from all different cultures and backgrounds but if you support Celtic and your not of Irish descent,please don’t try and rewrite history. Please don’t dismiss the hundreds of thousands worldwide who see Celtic as part of their Irish heritage,please accept that Celtic is more than a football club..end of.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 9:47 am

    A well informed piece, full of emotion and common sense.
    I am not Irish or Scottish, but English, and have supported Celtic 47 years of my 52 year existence.
    I suppose I see this as a virtual outsider as something that defies belief.
    Political songs can never be considered \”unlawful\” but offensive when they are measured against songs sung with the opposite point of view in the same environment.
    I\’m not saying that Celtic shouldnt\’ sing the songs they do, but we all know that as long as the old ways still have a say in power; balancing out is the only way the Government of the day can control the situation (tongue very firmly in cheek), even though they all know it is one way traffic.
    Good analogy with the REM song and I raise you Oliver\’s Army by Elvis Costello.
    Hell is the impossibility of reason, which I believe is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but was used by Charlie Sheen in Platoon – quite apt for this argument.

    Keep up the good work

  • 24 February, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Hi James,

    On the whole, I enjoyed reading this piece. I agree that we shouldn\’t be mentioned in the same sentence when talking about Sevco fans and their song sheet. I also can\’t fault you on the main facts. What I would take issue with and what I found provocative, was the tone of your piece when criticising those who take offence at the songs that our fans sing.
    When there are chants of \’IRA\’ I cringe to be honest. The argument \’one man\’s terrorist is another man\’s freedom fighter\’ doesn\’t wash when innocent people are deliberately targeted. I can understand if people argue that this compares to attrocities commited by the British army but, you can\’t accuse Sevco fans of whataboutery and then do the same ourselves.
    what I found provocative of the piece was the intimation that those who take offence don\’t have legitimate grounds for doing so, only that you are \’past caring who it upsets\’. It upsets a lot of Celtic fans too, not just \’Disgusted from Larkhall\’.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 10:52 am

    Neil,without wishing to take the argument in a different direction I must point out that while it’s undeniable that innocent people died at the hands of the IRA,they were never “deliberately targeted”. Coded warnings were used to avoid civilian casualties although at times they were inadequate or not responded to swiftly enough. This probably wont make a huge deal of difference to your view but it should be pointed out.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I had an interesting insight in to the mindset of the Hun via a thread on FF yesterday which might answer why they would get so infuriated about the tri-colour and the symbolism of peace between Catholic and Protestant.

    To these neanderthal, and despite the fact I would wager less than 10% of them have any idea about 1690 and the Protestant Reformation, they must continue to be \”defenders of the faith\” and are entirely correct and justified in opposing Catholics, and Catholicism in general, at every opportunity.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Hi Victor,

    Thanks for replying. I appreciate what your saying. If I’m being honest, I don’t think it does change my opinion. My opinion is that coded warnings were used to incite fear and claim credit. To stop killing innocents, bombs shouldn’t be used in public places. Everyone has a right to how they feel about this, I respect that.


  • 24 February, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Shine the spotlight into every nook and cranny. That\’s the way. Shine it in our own faces aswell. That\’s the way. Show everything for what it truly is. That\’s the only way. Then we will rid ourselves of the cancer that drags Scottish football to its knees time after time after time. God bless us all regardless of where you hail from.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    They say why dont you go home the famines over are they singing that to the 33% of irish protestants who suffered and came over as well or did their forefathers tell them it was only catholic potatoes that were diseased they would have believed that as well

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