Killing for Rangers - Scotland's unacknowledged sectarianism

(An Phoblacht 31/8/00)

As the pub danced to Chris Sutton's injury time tap-in last Sunday, as Celtic hammered Rangers 6-2, the moment for this son of Parkhead was spoiled. The thought jumped into my head and would not go away. I will share it with you now. How many Celtic supporters are going to die tonight because of this? The answer, so far, is one.

James Hardie was watching TV with his kins at his home in Drumchapel. A man burst into his home and stabbed him repeatedly. Drumchapel is the peripheral housing estate on the Northwest edge of Glasgow that produced George Seawright. It has the twin social poisons of poverty and loyalism. I spent time there as a youth worker in the 1980s. I know the place well; I looked into its soul. I came away from Drumchapel with a settled view that loyalism in Scotland would, one day, be a major social problem which the Scottish nation would have to deal with.

There is now a regular body count of Catholics after every Old Firm game. Last season, a young man called McFadden with Donegal connections was stabbed to death - his crime was wearing a Celtic top. Another young man escaped death by the strength of his sternum - he was shot in the chest by a crossbow. He survived, to the bafflement of medics.

If James Hardie's killer is ever brought to justice, then it would surprise no one if he benefits from the eloquent sophistry of Donald Findlay QC. Findlay was Vice-Chairman of Rangers until he was filmed singing sectarian loyalist party tunes. Before being outed, Findlay had represented a number of loyalists in Scottish courts. No doubt they still call on his services. Jason Campbell, a UVF thug who slashed a young man's throat to the spine, was heading for a conviction for murder. Findlay got the charge reduced by the skill of his courtroom oratory. Campbell's victim was Mark Scott. He had made the fatal error of walking through Bridgeton in the East End of Glasgow wearing a Celtic Top.

What shocked nice polite Scottish society was that Mark Scott could've been one of their own (i.e. not a working class Taig). Mark Scott's dad is a leading Scottish surgeon and a Protestant. His mother is a Catholic. Nice, middle class, tolerant, they allowed Mark to support Celtic. It cost him his life. The Scottish media, even presented with this opportunity, chose not to examine this twisted sectarian belief system.

The culture that Rangers nurtures every match day is an open sewer that no one in Scottish society seems willing or able to address. It is no coincidence that Johnny Adair's UDA have borrowed a modern Rangers anthem, `Simply The Best', to strut their fascist stuff at Drumcree. The badge of a Harryville protester was a Rangers scarf worn as a mask. Rangers keeper Andy Goram was photographed in his home in a room that could only be described as a shrine to loyalism. This is no ordinary soccer club.

The club's unofficial battle hymn for generations has been `The Billy Boys'. It commemorates the exploits of the inter-war Glasgow gang of that name, founded by Billy Fullerton. Fullerton was one of Mosely's Blackshirts, a member of the British Union of Fascists and a founder member of the Ku Klux Klan in Scotland. His razor-wielding gang weighed in on the side of the state during the 1926 General Strike. Many of the Billy Boys received Certificates of Commendation from the Secretary of State for Scotland for services rendered during the General Strike.

There is a rich vein of fascism in Scotland stretching back to those days. It almost always wears a Rangers shirt. There is no nationalist equivalent. Simply none.

The British Left wrap themselves up in a comfort blanket that says `both sides are as bad as each other'. This holds about as much water as saying that the Metropolitan Police would not have dealt with the Stephen Lawrence affair differently if Lawrence had have been a white kid who had been murdered by a group of black thugs. No one seriously believes that anywhere. The Met are racists and the targets of that racism are the lower orders of English society. That means Black and Irish. In Glasgow it means a Catholic with, usually, an Irish surname.

Irish surname is a major indicator in Scotland thatyou will be unemployed and that your dad was long-term unemployed. It is also a major indicator that you will have worse health than someone without an Irish surname - even when socio-economic factors are allowed for. What Scottish society and the Scottish political elite - now complete with their own legislature - cannot, it would appear, come to terms with, is that there remains a problem of anti-Catholic/anti-Irish discrimination in Scottish society.

That discrimination legitimises, in the sick heads that killed Mark Scott and James Hardie, the killing of Taigs if the Rangers defence has an off day. Because in Scotland 2000, its still OK to be down on Taigs.

This fixture list slaughter hardly raises a comment from the concerned chattering classes now flying around the Scottish parliament. This is because Catholics still predominate in the lower socio-economic orders and it is an unwritten subtext that Catholics in Scotland, because so many of them have maintained an emotional attachment to Ireland, are not really full members of Scottish society.

For many in the West of Scotland, that is an accurate picture of their mindset. It is certainly the sense of identity I grew up with. We were expatriate Irish. That identity would not be a problem in New York; in Glasgow it can be a stabbing offence. The next Old Firm game will have more deaths. They will be Catholics. As the graffiti in Portadown says `Any Fenian Will Do'.

At least on this island we recognise Adair's belief system as a social problem. Even that nice Fintan O'Toole said it was a Bad Thing in the Irish Times. There is a wide consensus on this island, and not just among nationalists, that those Drumcree protesters are a social problem. They have a belief system that has no place in an agreed Ireland.

Scotland is still in denial. That is why the killing will continue.

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