Talfanzine.com

FOR CELTIC & IRELAND

The TAL Editorial - Season 03-04 begins...

To download TAL Issue 36

 in PDF Format - click here


By Talman

 

As we go to print we’ve just recorded a victory over rangers and are sitting at the top of the SPL just one point ahead of the forces of darkness. It looks like being the same old story in Scotland with the also-rans almost out of it already. ‘Same old same old’ too with referees regarding the weird and wonderful decisions that they come up with when they officiate at our matches – witness the sending off of Didier Agathe if any further proof were needed that we’re not paranoid, they really are out to get us!

 

In Europe the story is so far so good – a narrow defeat to Bayern Munich after dominating the game in Germany and a great result at home to Lyon has set things up well for the rest of the group matches in the Champions League. With home results being the key this could be our best chance to reach the second stage of the competition. It’s no more than Martin O’Neil and his squad deserve after the heroics of last season’s UEFA Cup run.

 

What should have been rewarded with further investment in the squad has met with a miserable response from the our biggest shareholder Dermot “Terry Thomas” Desmond and the bank manager’s bank manager Brian ‘Scrooge’ Quinn doing their utmost it would seem to spoil the Spirit of Seville with their over scrupulous approach to financial matters. Indeed, as other articles in this issue of TAL point out, the prudence of the board is almost unfathomable at a time when our pedigree in Europe has increased ten-fold and the potential saleability of Celtic as a worldwide brand has rarely been better.

 

Nothing better illustrates the apparent lack of ambition of those that run our club than the way that James McFadden of Motherwell slipped through our fingers because of the return to the biscuit tin mentality of those who hold the purse strings at Celtic Park.  A player who was surely easily within our financial reach was allowed to leave Scotland for Everton and the English Premiership because Martin O’Neill could offer nothing better than a loan deal and a promise that we’d maybe sign the player at the end of the season ‘all going well and finances permitting’! Does this sound like a team that reached a European final at the end of last season? McFadden was said to have been heartbroken that the deal to take him to Celtic fell through, having held a family party that weekend to celebrate his apparent transfer to Celtic, only to be told that Everton had made an offer to take him to England that bettered our loan offer by £1 million. As press reports subsequently suggested, his manager at Motherwell, the ex-hun & Ingerlund captain Terry Butcher, was quite literally laughing up his sleeve at the deal offered by Celtic for the player and was more than happy to see him snatched from under our noses by David Moyes.

 

Off the park the PLC board’s relationship with the ordinary Celtic supporters continues to be an adversarial one. Brian Quinn was only too happy recently to bask in the praise that was heaped upon our fans by UEFA when they awarded us the prestigious Fair Play award, yet he and the other board members still won’t allow Celtic supporters to be represented in the boardroom. Their rejection of the Celtic Trust proposal for a fans’ representative showed the contempt that they really hold us in.

 

The leadership that they are offering to the club is neither modern nor ambitious enough for a club the size and stature of Celtic. The latest rumour  doing the rounds regarding the transfer policies of the PLC board is that the manager may have to sell in order to buy. This despite an apparent windfall of  £10 million that will be accrued as a result of the team playing in the first group stage of the Champions League. Is this any better than the alleged tawdry deal offered by Fergus McCann to Davie Hay when he was our Chief Scout that he could share in the profits of any players that he found for Celtic when they moved on to another club?

 

It is clear that two separate share offers have borne little fruit in relation to the fans having a greater say in the running of our club despite the promises at the time of a ‘share-holders democracy’ a la Maggie Thatcher. What we got in fact was the replacement of an autocracy by a bureaucracy – one step forward, two steps back. As the saying goes in Glasgow, ‘They saw you coming mate!’

As we go to print we’ve just recorded a victory over rangers and are sitting at the top of the SPL just one point ahead of the forces of darkness. It looks like being the same old story in Scotland with the also-rans almost out of it already. ‘Same old same old’ too with referees regarding the weird and wonderful decisions that they come up with when they officiate at our matches – witness the sending off of Didier Agathe if any further proof were needed that we’re not paranoid, they really are out to get us!

 

In Europe the story is so far so good – a narrow defeat to Bayern Munich after dominating the game in Germany and a great result at home to Lyon has set things up well for the rest of the group matches in the Champions League. With home results being the key this could be our best chance to reach the second stage of the competition. It’s no more than Martin O’Neil and his squad deserve after the heroics of last season’s UEFA Cup run.

 

What should have been rewarded with further investment in the squad has met with a miserable response from the our biggest shareholder Dermot “Terry Thomas” Desmond and the bank manager’s bank manager Brian ‘Scrooge’ Quinn doing their utmost it would seem to spoil the Spirit of Seville with their over scrupulous approach to financial matters. Indeed, as other articles in this issue of TAL point out, the prudence of the board is almost unfathomable at a time when our pedigree in Europe has increased ten-fold and the potential saleability of Celtic as a worldwide brand has rarely been better.

 

Nothing better illustrates the apparent lack of ambition of those that run our club than the way that James McFadden of Motherwell slipped through our fingers because of the return to the biscuit tin mentality of those who hold the purse strings at Celtic Park.  A player who was surely easily within our financial reach was allowed to leave Scotland for Everton and the English Premiership because Martin O’Neill could offer nothing better than a loan deal and a promise that we’d maybe sign the player at the end of the season ‘all going well and finances permitting’! Does this sound like a team that reached a European final at the end of last season? McFadden was said to have been heartbroken that the deal to take him to Celtic fell through, having held a family party that weekend to celebrate his apparent transfer to Celtic, only to be told that Everton had made an offer to take him to England that bettered our loan offer by £1 million. As press reports subsequently suggested, his manager at Motherwell, the ex-hun & Ingerlund captain Terry Butcher, was quite literally laughing up his sleeve at the deal offered by Celtic for the player and was more than happy to see him snatched from under our noses by David Moyes.

 

Off the park the PLC board’s relationship with the ordinary Celtic supporters continues to be an adversarial one. Brian Quinn was only too happy recently to bask in the praise that was heaped upon our fans by UEFA when they awarded us the prestigious Fair Play award, yet he and the other board members still won’t allow Celtic supporters to be represented in the boardroom. Their rejection of the Celtic Trust proposal for a fans’ representative showed the contempt that they really hold us in.

 

The leadership that they are offering to the club is neither modern nor ambitious enough for a club the size and stature of Celtic. The latest rumour  doing the rounds regarding the transfer policies of the PLC board is that the manager may have to sell in order to buy. This despite an apparent windfall of  £10 million that will be accrued as a result of the team playing in the first group stage of the Champions League. Is this any better than the alleged tawdry deal offered by Fergus McCann to Davie Hay when he was our Chief Scout that he could share in the profits of any players that he found for Celtic when they moved on to another club?

 

It is clear that two separate share offers have borne little fruit in relation to the fans having a greater say in the running of our club despite the promises at the time of a ‘share-holders democracy’ a la Maggie Thatcher. What we got in fact was the replacement of an autocracy by a bureaucracy – one step forward, two steps back. As the saying goes in Glasgow, ‘They saw you coming mate!’

As we go to print we’ve just recorded a victory over rangers and are sitting at the top of the SPL just one point ahead of the forces of darkness. It looks like being the same old story in Scotland with the also-rans almost out of it already. ‘Same old same old’ too with referees regarding the weird and wonderful decisions that they come up with when they officiate at our matches – witness the sending off of Didier Agathe if any further proof were needed that we’re not paranoid, they really are out to get us!

 

In Europe the story is so far so good – a narrow defeat to Bayern Munich after dominating the game in Germany and a great result at home to Lyon has set things up well for the rest of the group matches in the Champions League. With home results being the key this could be our best chance to reach the second stage of the competition. It’s no more than Martin O’Neil and his squad deserve after the heroics of last season’s UEFA Cup run.

 

What should have been rewarded with further investment in the squad has met with a miserable response from the our biggest shareholder Dermot “Terry Thomas” Desmond and the bank manager’s bank manager Brian ‘Scrooge’ Quinn doing their utmost it would seem to spoil the Spirit of Seville with their over scrupulous approach to financial matters. Indeed, as other articles in this issue of TAL point out, the prudence of the board is almost unfathomable at a time when our pedigree in Europe has increased ten-fold and the potential saleability of Celtic as a worldwide brand has rarely been better.

 

Nothing better illustrates the apparent lack of ambition of those that run our club than the way that James McFadden of Motherwell slipped through our fingers because of the return to the biscuit tin mentality of those who hold the purse strings at Celtic Park.  A player who was surely easily within our financial reach was allowed to leave Scotland for Everton and the English Premiership because Martin O’Neill could offer nothing better than a loan deal and a promise that we’d maybe sign the player at the end of the season ‘all going well and finances permitting’! Does this sound like a team that reached a European final at the end of last season? McFadden was said to have been heartbroken that the deal to take him to Celtic fell through, having held a family party that weekend to celebrate his apparent transfer to Celtic, only to be told that Everton had made an offer to take him to England that bettered our loan offer by £1 million. As press reports subsequently suggested, his manager at Motherwell, the ex-hun & Ingerlund captain Terry Butcher, was quite literally laughing up his sleeve at the deal offered by Celtic for the player and was more than happy to see him snatched from under our noses by David Moyes.

 

Off the park the PLC board’s relationship with the ordinary Celtic supporters continues to be an adversarial one. Brian Quinn was only too happy recently to bask in the praise that was heaped upon our fans by UEFA when they awarded us the prestigious Fair Play award, yet he and the other board members still won’t allow Celtic supporters to be represented in the boardroom. Their rejection of the Celtic Trust proposal for a fans’ representative showed the contempt that they really hold us in.

 

The leadership that they are offering to the club is neither modern nor ambitious enough for a club the size and stature of Celtic. The latest rumour  doing the rounds regarding the transfer policies of the PLC board is that the manager may have to sell in order to buy. This despite an apparent windfall of  £10 million that will be accrued as a result of the team playing in the first group stage of the Champions League. Is this any better than the alleged tawdry deal offered by Fergus McCann to Davie Hay when he was our Chief Scout that he could share in the profits of any players that he found for Celtic when they moved on to another club?

 

It is clear that two separate share offers have borne little fruit in relation to the fans having a greater say in the running of our club despite the promises at the time of a ‘share-holders democracy’ a la Maggie Thatcher. What we got in fact was the replacement of an autocracy by a bureaucracy – one step forward, two steps back. As the saying goes in Glasgow, ‘They saw you coming mate!’

As we go to print we’ve just recorded a victory over rangers and are sitting at the top of the SPL just one point ahead of the forces of darkness. It looks like being the same old story in Scotland with the also-rans almost out of it already. ‘Same old same old’ too with referees regarding the weird and wonderful decisions that they come up with when they officiate at our matches – witness the sending off of Didier Agathe if any further proof were needed that we’re not paranoid, they really are out to get us!

 

In Europe the story is so far so good – a narrow defeat to Bayern Munich after dominating the game in Germany and a great result at home to Lyon has set things up well for the rest of the group matches in the Champions League. With home results being the key this could be our best chance to reach the second stage of the competition. It’s no more than Martin O’Neil and his squad deserve after the heroics of last season’s UEFA Cup run.

 

What should have been rewarded with further investment in the squad has met with a miserable response from the our biggest shareholder Dermot “Terry Thomas” Desmond and the bank manager’s bank manager Brian ‘Scrooge’ Quinn doing their utmost it would seem to spoil the Spirit of Seville with their over scrupulous approach to financial matters. Indeed, as other articles in this issue of TAL point out, the prudence of the board is almost unfathomable at a time when our pedigree in Europe has increased ten-fold and the potential saleability of Celtic as a worldwide brand has rarely been better.

 

Nothing better illustrates the apparent lack of ambition of those that run our club than the way that James McFadden of Motherwell slipped through our fingers because of the return to the biscuit tin mentality of those who hold the purse strings at Celtic Park.  A player who was surely easily within our financial reach was allowed to leave Scotland for Everton and the English Premiership because Martin O’Neill could offer nothing better than a loan deal and a promise that we’d maybe sign the player at the end of the season ‘all going well and finances permitting’! Does this sound like a team that reached a European final at the end of last season? McFadden was said to have been heartbroken that the deal to take him to Celtic fell through, having held a family party that weekend to celebrate his apparent transfer to Celtic, only to be told that Everton had made an offer to take him to England that bettered our loan offer by £1 million. As press reports subsequently suggested, his manager at Motherwell, the ex-hun & Ingerlund captain Terry Butcher, was quite literally laughing up his sleeve at the deal offered by Celtic for the player and was more than happy to see him snatched from under our noses by David Moyes.

 

Off the park the PLC board’s relationship with the ordinary Celtic supporters continues to be an adversarial one. Brian Quinn was only too happy recently to bask in the praise that was heaped upon our fans by UEFA when they awarded us the prestigious Fair Play award, yet he and the other board members still won’t allow Celtic supporters to be represented in the boardroom. Their rejection of the Celtic Trust proposal for a fans’ representative showed the contempt that they really hold us in.

 

The leadership that they are offering to the club is neither modern nor ambitious enough for a club the size and stature of Celtic. The latest rumour  doing the rounds regarding the transfer policies of the PLC board is that the manager may have to sell in order to buy. This despite an apparent windfall of  £10 million that will be accrued as a result of the team playing in the first group stage of the Champions League. Is this any better than the alleged tawdry deal offered by Fergus McCann to Davie Hay when he was our Chief Scout that he could share in the profits of any players that he found for Celtic when they moved on to another club?

 

It is clear that two separate share offers have borne little fruit in relation to the fans having a greater say in the running of our club despite the promises at the time of a ‘share-holders democracy’ a la Maggie Thatcher. What we got in fact was the replacement of an autocracy by a bureaucracy – one step forward, two steps back. As the saying goes in Glasgow, ‘They saw you coming mate!’

Season Review 2002–2003

By Southsider

 

No trophies and the huns won the treble. So why didn’t it feel so bad ?

 

I’m sure we still never looked at a newspaper for a few days after they had lifted the silverware but it never hurt like it used to. Not like that sinking feeling when you knew they were 10 to 15 points better over the season and you knew they would spend more during the summer.

 

Celtic arrived on the big stage last season in the way we’ve all been hoping they would for the past 20 years. We should never accept gallant defeat, that’s not what it was, it was more than that. Rough estimates are put at 500 million viewers for Celtic taking Porto right to the last in Seville. Despite the disappointment of going out of the Champions League so early, despite coming up against teams from the top of La Liga, the Bundesliga and the English Premiership we made it to the UEFA Cup Final. And despite being the underdogs, unfamiliar with the sweltering heat, going down to ten men, going behind twice and with a referee so easily taking in by Porto’s playacting, we still forced it right to the end. The players gave everything and incredibly our support took up every seat in the stadium not allocated to Porto fans or UEFA salad-dodgers. I don’t think any of those 500 million could have missed the emotion and passion our fans and players displayed that night.

 

We have to move on and build on it so we can look back on it as good memories and not a blip in our pre-2003 European campaigns.

 

Inevitably our home campaign suffered at the expense of our efforts abroad. Losing the league cup hurt for a while but Hartson bounced right back from missing a penalty in that game to score a screamer at Anfield. That was the sort of week we had time and time again as valuable points dropped at Tyncastle in the league were quickly forgotten when Larsson popped up to score the winner in the UEFA semi against Boavista.  We eventually paid the price for these slip-ups in the league but it took the huns to the last game of the season to pip us by 1 goal. We always trailed them but a laboured 1-0 win at Paradise and a classier 2-1 win at Ipox gave them a real scare in the run in. The effort the players put into our final day 4-0 win at Rugby Park is testament to the fighting spirit of the players who have proved over the past 2 seasons that they are not just triers, they’re winners as well.

 

So here we are facing a new season. Unfortunately it will be Henrik’s last with us.  When I watched him come on for his first game at Easter Road years back, never did I think he would have such a massive impact on our team.  We should savour this last season watching Ghod play up front for us. Maybe not as skilful as Di Canio or as flashy as Charlie Nick or McAvennie but all round the best striker I’ve seen at Celtic Park and I’ve seen some good ‘uns over the past 20 years. 

 

Our last season with Henrik Larsson, The Magnificent Seven, The Celtic Legend.

The article that the Celtic View would not print…

By Peter Rafferty - Affiliation of Registered CSC's

 

After all the glamour and excitement of last season, particularly in our fantastic UEFA cup campaign, we were brought back down to earth big time by chairman Brian Quinn's statement on our financial position.


Taking in all that he said the most disturbing comments were that the fans should have no expectations of money being spent on players. It is a case of sell before we buy. This I have to say is one of the most arrogant announcements I have heard from any person holding a top position within Celtic F.C.


It is totally unacceptable that he takes us for mugs along with the other members of the PLC board. We are not unaware of the club's monetary position and understand there has to be some restraint. Giving the whole hearted way the supporters have spent their hard earned cash in season books, filling the stadium for all home games in the SPL and Europe, supporting the half time draw, Celtic Pools and catering, buying more jerseys and other club merchandise from our official outlets in record amounts.

 

Adding to that the new black strip, the 3 game Euro package at £75 plus an instalment on season books all at the same time it is a total disgrace that no funding will be provided for Martin O'Neill to improve the squad for the upcoming Champions League games.


After all the success of the team and our spending power which we give freely in overall support for our club and to appear not to understand and appreciate this is forgivable in the eyes of the supporters. The PLC board should not take us for granted in dealing with our emotions on not supporting our ambitions or the manager and players to compete at the highest possible level.


We tasted the Euro experience and like it particularly our younger fans who never had the chance to see the team playing in these arenas before. They have heard about the Lisbon Lions etc from their fathers or even grandfathers. Now they have been to Seville and other Euro destinations they want more of the same and for Mr Quinn to be so negative in his approach beggars belief.


The team's performances are what it is all about. We have not won enough SPL championships etc to be complacent.


Martin O'Neill has already giving us as many trophies in 3 years as we won in the 1990's so he should get complete backing in his efforts to strength the squad.


One of the reasons getting new players was to reduce the average age in the dressing room. Maybe we should look to do the same on the PLC board and get younger top class businessmen that meet the criteria of bringing new finances to the club and not totally rely on us and take the club onto meet the challenges that a major football club have on the way to be successful.


I read with interest the pay off nearly £800,000 to ex Chief Executive, Ian McLeod - no wonder we cannot find money for players. It seems a high price to pay for such a short stay without seeing any real benefit from time in office.


A lot has been written about the new façade for the front of the main stand and the new dressing room facilities etc, which has to be admired, so the club can hold European finals at Parkhead but it seems a Catch 22 situation when the PLC board will not give the manager funding to reach this stage.


Again there is a new format for away ticket allocations introduced for this season and like any new system it is having teething problems with our travel clubs.


There has to be more consideration about the problems. A lot of clubs are experiencing with ballots, second ballots and in the Patrick Thistle case, a public sale.


With our away games being televised with an early kick off it is not helpful to convenors who are trying to cut their losses getting to these fixtures so, if possible, some review could be put in place to look at these problems would be appreciated by all concerned.


Probably the biggest fault is the club does not seem to be interested in our clubs for the first time ever. The renewal forms for season books did not include a section for supporters clubs making us all individuals.


Now I believe this to be extremely disrespectful to those fans that travel by coach in not recognising the hard work that convenors do in running clubs all over the UK and Ireland.


The powers at be keep telling us we are the greatest fans in the world, Martin O'Neill has said on a number of occasions how important the away fans are to the team, so hopefully the complaints and problems a number of clubs are having will be dealt with in a prompt and professional manner.


It would be rather amiss of me not to wish Brian Scott all the best for the future giving the club a great service for 25 years. Good luck, Brian.


Last but not least if Martin O'Neill has any doubts about our backing for him I can assure him it is firmly in place and we know who the guilty people are in not supporting you.

Class system rules at Celtic Park

By The Big Fella

 

Since its inception into Scottish society in 1888 Celtic Football Club has been a working class club for working class people. 

 

When I say ‘working class people’ I mean the bhoys and ghirls who have followed Celtic through the good and the bad times and who have done so on a limited budget.  I mean the majority who go out and work a 40 hour + week so they can go to the football on a Saturday afternoon. 

 

I feel now though that the club we support has turned its back on the true supporters, on the people who were there in the late 80’s early 90’s when things weren’t going well and the club battled against bankruptcy. 

 

When the “Bunnet” arrived in 1994 he promised great things. Granted he delivered on what he promised through the share issues that we bought in our thousands -  a brand new stadium and a successful team.  But in my opinion this all came at a cost that meant much more than money.

 

Despite the new stadium and the increased numbers of season ticket holders something of the heart of Celtic was ripped out when McCann gave us our new-fangled ‘share-owning democracy’. For a start the idea that we have any kind of democracy at the club is itself an illusion with the PLC board exerting a control over the club that is probably as strong and as dictatorial as it ever was. Witness the rubber-stamping, albeit with a small minority of dissenters, of most of the PLC recommendations at subsequent AGM’s.

 

There now exists at Celtic Park a new breed of supporter commonly known as “middle class w*nkers” (MCW’s), or to put it more politely in the words of a former Irish international at Man Utd, “the prawn sandwich brigade”.  These are the guys that come to Celtic Park on match day and sit with their hands under their arses just to keep them warm.  These are also the people who are guaranteed tickets for the big games i.e. important matches like the one last season in Liverpool (UEFA Cup Quarter Final).  These supporters didn’t get the tickets because they deserved them or because they travelled to previous games in Europe. NO - they got the tickets because they could afford to pay inflated prices for the “privilege” that had been provided them when Wee Fergus introduced a class system at Celtic Park.

 

In my opinion it is in part the operation of this class system at Celtic Park that has torn the heart out of the club that I love and the club that the readers of this fanzine love. 

 

But ticket allocation inequalities are of course only part of the overall problem. Appealing to a new class of “footy” supporter (with an eye to corporate investment and the big TV money as well) is what much of the so called ‘anti-sectarian’ drive has been all about. The atmosphere inside Celtic Park has all but been destroyed by diktats from on-high about which songs we can and can’t sing.  Top of the banned list are the songs, political views and general paraphernalia of the Republican-minded element of the support.

 

Why?

 

Well the reason being is that this doesn’t fit in with Celtic PLC’s new ethos or public image.  In an effort to increase the amount of big business investors and MCW’s coming through the gates at Paradise the people in charge at Celtic Park decided that we needed a make-over.

 

I liken Celtic to the Labour Party in the way that it might be argued that the Labour Party was once a working class party but over the years it lost it’s radicalism and eventually became New Labour and ditched its working class roots and its working class supporters.  And just as the Labour Party still has that element who stick with it through thick and thin despite every political principle that their party ever stood for being abandoned, so too does Celtic have an element that will stay loyal to the PLC board –ANY CELTIC PLC BOARD – as long as they profess themselves to be ‘one of us’, ‘Celtic men’, etc etc… you know the script by now.

 

I am of the belief that the vast majority of Celtic supporters are opposed to the way tickets are distributed by the club and I think it is deplorable that we have a “right to buy” two-tier system in operation. Indeed it sounds very much like the kind scheme that the Tories would have been proud of initiating.

 

I propose that we as Celtic Supporters get our act together and use whatever power we have to try and influence the decisions taken by the club.  There must be thousands of fans out there that feel the same way because this is a subject that pops up on every Internet forum or message board that is Celtic related.

 

There are numerous ways in which we could exert some influence whether that is through Internet forums, fanzines, and supporter clubs or even by some form of direct action against the PLC itself. 

 

Further I feel that any serious initiative to address these inequalities would be very likely to get the backing of the Celtic Supporters Association. The CSA already supports initiatives like that of the Celtic Supporters Trust to further democratise the club. It’s clear however that we need something more than the Celtic Trust to take us where we really want to be as supporters of this club with its unique identity and history. I have on numerous occasions visited the CSA site and I have been heartened to see that they too harbour the same feelings as many of us in relation to the way the Celtic board have continually rode roughshod over the views and feelings of our most loyal supporters. I would like to see the CSA take the leadership of a campaign to re-establish the true identity of our club and to make a forceful case for the proper representation of supporters on the club board.

 

And let’s not stop there. Supporters’ representatives on the board at Celtic should be seen only as a precursor to our ultimate goal of achieving real power at our club. That will only come when the supporters themselves make the decisions, rather than the bankers and businessmen who regard Celtic as a plaything and just another notch in their portfolio of investments.

CELTIC WRITERS GROUP

 

CELTIC WRITERS GROUP

 

The Celtic Writers Group are a committed group of Celtic supporters who come from a broad background of our support. The Group are not afraid to challenge those who attack our club and should be seen as a breath of fresh air enabling the Celtic support to discuss and debate the issues that effect us and what we hold dear as Celtic fans.

 

Written by a member of ‘The Celtic Writer’s Group’

 

Sectarianism: 'Scotland's Shame' or Scotland's Blame Game? 

 

Recently, a committee of the Scottish Executive heard representations from various people, including the Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, on the issue of whether sectarianism should be considered as an additional motivation or aggravation for assault charges.  It was proposed that such offences should be separately considered and penalised.  I also heard last week that Sandra White MSP now wants pubs which are ‘sectarian’ to be refused licences.   As I listened to the various worthies discussing this very topical issue, two unanswered questions began to bother me greatly.  First, what do they actually mean by sectarianism?  Indeed Roseanna Cunningham the SNP MSP (who has a legal background) raised this very question in terms of how any proposed legislation should be framed.  The second question was, if we don’t actually record these figures now (since there is currently no separate offence), on what do groups like Nil by Mouth base their assertions that this is an important and growing problem.  What are they referring to?  

 

If the thing they’re talking about is the level of violent crimes which are reported after football matches, then do we not need to look at the figures a bit more closely?  What are the average levels of assaults/disturbances on a Saturday night throughout the towns and cities of Scotland?    How do these vary in relation to whether there has been a football match or are they relevant to which teams are playing?  Are they a weekday phenomenon or is it just at weekends that ‘sectarians’ come out to play?  Who are the main perpetrators and victims of these crimes?  Is an incident between rival fans only sectarian if it involves Celtic and/or Rangers?  Is any incident involving Celtic or Rangers fans sectarian by definition?  I don’t know the answers to all of these questions but if I was running a credible campaign like Nil by Mouth aspire to I would expect to be able to answer them.  Instead, all we hear from Nil by Mouth and their cheerleaders is how we should start throwing people out of football grounds because we don’t like what they sing.  

 

There appears to be now a consensus in public debate that sectarianism is a major problem; that we all know what it means, that is it inextricably linked to football in general and the Old Firm in particular, and that it is even-handed in its effects.  However, before we start trying to lock people up, refuse them the liquor licenses which provide their livelihood, or deprive them of their right to watch the football team of their choice, should we not have some intelligent discussion, and resolution, of these questions?  The unquestioned and, it almost appears, unquestionable campaign against ‘sectarianism’ which is being conducted by everyone from Jack McConnell (‘Old Firm Bigots should be Banned for Life says Jack’) to Donald Gorrie to Sandra White to Glasgow City Council to Nil by Mouth is, ironically, being conducted in such an atmosphere of intolerance that most people are frightened to do anything other than agree with it on the grounds that to question it in any way leaves them open to being branded a bigot themselves.  Such conformity does Scottish society no good whatsoever.  So much for the new Scotland.  

 

So let’s get back to definitions.  To start the debate here are some observations.  Singing about being ‘up to your knees in Fenian blood’ is sectarian; singing ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ is not.  These songs express political views of unionism and conservatism with which I don’t agree and which I find repulsive, but they cannot be said to be sectarian.  I do not agree with Sandra White MSP that pubs which display pictures of known members of loyalist organisations are, by definition, encouraging ‘sectarianism’.  They may well be, but not because they support the politics of loyalism.  Any songs which are anti-Protestant are sectarian – I cannot offer an example here because I have not heard any songs which could be interpreted that way sung at Celtic Park in many a long year.  Any songs which express support for Irish Republicanism are not sectarian.  I understand that they express political views which some or many people do not agree: but they are not sectarian.  

The IRA is an organisation (and it has changed in numerous ways over the decades) which many people detest. However, there are many other people who support the right of people to arm themselves when democratic means are denied them and who believe that this is the history of British-Irish relations.  Again, I cannot agree that having a juke box which contains songs about Bobby Sands is sectarian in any way.  Ms White may not like it, or agree with it, but Bobby Sands is regarded by many thousands of people in many countries as an outstandingly brave and honourable man.  He was an elected member of the British Parliament and there are numerous streets and avenues called after him across the globe.  The reasonable and valid argument that people are entitled to peacefully hold political views regardless of how unpopular they might be seems to be getting lost in all of this.  The message appears to be, ‘we are only prepared to tolerate you if you keep your views to yourself’. 

 

I have some sympathy with the view that football grounds are not the best arena for displaying political solidarity with any cause and am not given to singing about anything other than Celtic at most games.  However, it is undoubtedly fact that football matches and other sporting occasions have been used many times and in many countries to show political solidarity and dissension:  the clenched fist display of the black American athletes at the 1968 Mexico Olympics in support of Black Power, the red cards Celtic fans showed Thatcher on her visit to the Scottish Cup Final in 1988, more recently, during the World Cup it was reported by the BBC that  ‘football (in Iran) has definitely become a vehicle for thinly-disguised social and even political protest against their (the Ayatollahs) rule’. What about our own club custodians displaying recruiting posters for the British Army inside Celtic Park in the early 1990s? 

 

Also, what about the overtly political acts which are carried out at football grounds on a regular basis?  We have the flying of the Union Jack in a country in which according to respected and comprehensive surveys only a small proportion of the population regard themselves as British first and foremost.  We have the selective and highly controversial basis upon which we hold minutes’ silences.  Is asking Celtic fans to stand in silence to show respect to a member of the British royal family not a political act?  Is showing respect for the innocent American victims of mass murder but not the innocent Iraqi/Iranian/Kosovan/Chilean/Nicaraguan/ (insert country of choice) victims of American or American-sponsored mass murder not a political act?  Don’t even mention  Ireland.

 

I, and many others, am happy to engage in a debate about what the appropriate behaviour should be at football matches or any other public place, but lets have a some serious debate about what it is that ‘sectarianism’ really is and lets not get worked up into a frenzy about new and bigger penalties for offences which we have yet to define.

Packaging our history : selling our soul?

Packaging our history - selling our soul?

By a member of the Celtic Writers Group

In its beginning, Celtic provided money to feed the poor in the immediate vacinity of the east end of Glasgow and became a symbol for Irish Catholics in the west of Scotland. The club helped give a community self-respect and encouraged them to hold our heads up amidst much deprivation, degradation and hostility.  The Irish responded by making Celtic part of their very being. Today, songs sung by the Celtic support like ‘The Fields of Athenry’ and ‘Let the People Sing’ are reminders of the roots and the identity of Celtic and its dedicated fans. 

 

But Celtic has never been closed minded.  We have always been an open club and never discriminated against non-Irish Catholic players or fans just because they weren’t the same as us – whatever that might mean? Celtic has always been the standard bearer for Irish Catholic immigrants in Scotland but those not of that background have always been welcome to support us.  

 

However, a question has been emerging since the days of Mr McCann. Are some Celts embarrassed about our Irish and Catholic identities?  

 

These are the primary identities of our club and the vast majority of the support, although it must be recognised that Celtic and its fans aren’t mainly Catholic in the sense that we’re part of the institutional Church nor are we Irish in the sense that we are the same as the Irish who have been born and brought up in Ireland.   

 

Have such critics no sense of history (unless its written to suit themselves)? The media, politicians, representatives of other football clubs, Scotland’s football authorities, etc: they’ve all had a go at us.  Our songs, our symbols, our flags, our colours, our affinities and allegiances to Ireland.  In fact, even the schools many of us attended.   The list is endless.  Its been going on since our club was born.  The fact that we’re even here seems unacceptable.  

 

Do we have to CHANGE the nature and identities of Celtic and its fans to be accepted?  Do Celtic fans require to change one hundred years of identity to suit new Celtic people who don’t like some of the ‘old’ ways and prefer some ‘new’ ones instead? Maybe they even think they can give the traditional Celtic fans (the offspring of those the club was founded for)  a bit of a concession?  That concession goes along the line of ‘you don’t have to forget Ireland: you can sing a few (acceptable) songs, even fly your flag now and again (at most grounds), and you will be ‘allowed’ to refer to the ‘proud origins’ of your club, your families and community.   But keep it to ‘heritage’.  ‘Keep it plastic’.   

 

The ideal scenario might be that Celtic’s Catholic identity disappears along with the rest of Christianity in Scotland and the club and the fan’s Irishness are constructed something similar to an Irish theme bar.  Even Scotland accepts Irish theme bars now. Football club’s these days have to work hard to stand out a little and if there’s an Irish Diaspora out there all the better.  Package the club’s identity and sell it under the banner of ‘heritage’.  Manchester United are fast becoming nothing more than a vehicle for making money.  Why not us too? Leprechauns are loved the world over, ‘surely they are, surely, begorrah’.  Everybody likes a pint of stout.   

 

Get real.  Irish Catholics founded Celtic, played for Celtic and supported Celtic.  The grand children and great grand children of this community in Scotland represent the very heart and soul of Celtic.  Without this recognition and these identities Celtic isn’t Celtic but a new creation wearing Celtic’s green and white hoops.   

 

We’ve inherited something unique in Scotland and amongst the Irish worldwide.  The space in my life that is Celtic is where I can be Irish and express this through standing shoulder to shoulder with friends and relations in the face of adversity.  That’s the way it always has been. If Celtic changes then our very being is changed, our heart and soul are sold off and only remembered as green coloured packages to be bought in the many Celtic Shops for Celtic Plc.     

 

For those who wish to change us, I say, ‘go and support another club’, ‘go and work for another club’.  There’s plenty in Scotland that have a different history and identity to us.  I have no problem with them.  I have no problem with you; English, Brazilian, Chinese, British, Protestant, Atheist, Agnostic, proud to wear a kilt, like to sing Greensleeves, or a supporter of rampant capitalism.  I don’t believe in any kind of pure identity – that’s cultural facism.  If you come to our club your welcome.  But surely those identities are for outside of the Celtic environment?  It seems odd that such people might want to change us?  Why us?  Why not Partick Thistle, Liverpool or Barcelona?  Let’s change ‘Catalan’ Barcelona.  Now wouldn’t that be a good idea?  Have Celtic and its fans an identity you don’t like?   

 

I know our club isn’t about one identity but it isn’t about a thousand and one identities either. I do know that since day one and in terms of the very rationale of why we exist, Irish and Catholic have had a special meaning to Celtic and its fans that they simply don’t for any other football club.  That makes Celtic unique.   

 

The ideals and dreams of Celtic’s founders and first supporters should not be thrown-away for some false idea of Celtic being a club for all and sundry.  What club is?  Barcelona (Catalans)?  Real Sociedad (Basques)? Liverpool (Scouse working class)?  St Pauli (leftist, anti-racist and anti-fascists)?  Maybe Man Utd in the interests of a fast buck?  No, even at Man Utd some supporters are fighting against the money mad demons. This is our club.  Our grandfathers and great grandfathers have given us something to be proud of.  Our traditions, heritage and identity are not for sale.  At least not for the real supporters of Celtic.

 

In 1887/88 our community celebrated its roots, heritage and identity by giving birth to Celtic Football Club.  In 1967 this immigrant community in Scotland gained the respect of the football world by winning the world’s premier club trophy.  In 1988 we celebrated these facts with a wonderful double.  Hopefully this community, and those who wish to share in our team’s glories regardless of background,  have many more celebrations to come.  We don’t need to deny our identity, suit the whims of fashion or dilute our rich traditions because some of our support or employees have decided to sell our soul.  Sell your own soul, not mine.  Celtic belongs to us, and those who for 90 minutes want to share something with us.  

Barca - more than just a football club...

Barca, " A People's Passion" by Jimmy Burns

Book Review by A TÁL Forum Member

Before reading this book I knew obviously that Barca was a massive club but I never knew just how central the football team was to the Catalan community, this goes back to the days of Franco's dictatorship in Spain when all opposition from the various regions of Spain wasn't accepted, and the fiercely proud Catalan people suffered as much as anyone under the fascist regime, this mirrored the situation that the region's top football team FC Barcelona faced their fierce rivals Real Madrid where the establishment team and they enjoyed the successes this title brought with it.

It didn't take long in the book to find some interest from a republican point of view this came in the first chapter when the author travelled with a group of Barca Ultras on a coach to Valencia for the clubs Spanish cup final against Mallorca, the author was surveying the scene on the bus when he noticed the Irish Tricolour flying in the back window alongside a Catalan flag the author asked the fans why they flew the tricolour to which the reply came " The Irish have been engaged in a struggle for liberation for centuries just like the people of Catalonia", the Barca lads then put on a republican video " Moving Hearts " showing volunteers patrolling West Belfast and South Armagh much to the pleasure of the travelling Ultras.

Another misconception I had about the Barca faithful was that after centuries of fascist rule the fans would be 100% anti fash, this isn't true though although the Group featured in the book " Pena Almogavers" are committed left wingers, there is another group whom the Almogavers split from due to their right wing leanings the "Boixos Nois" who sit in the opposite end one of the Ultras explains " when I first started going to games I stood with the Boixos who used to give all for Barca and Catalonia, now they're just a group of fascist boneheads who bring disgrace on the club"

When I first read the authors introduction to the book I was curious as to how someone born in Madrid to English parents happened to become a fan of FC Barcelona, indeed his grandparents house where he spent his early years was on the same Madrid avenue as the Bernabeu, but he soon explains he became a fan of Barca for the same reason he didn't follow Real because of the clubs politics, stating as he grew older he "became conscious of the clubs links to Franco's regime and knew he wanted no part in supporting it", also saying after he moved to England in his schooldays he used to spend the holidays in Catalonia.  He also tells of one of his most moving moments as a Barca fan when working for Yorkshire TV filming on the "new Spain" emerging after Franco's death " Nothing impressed me more than the scenes in a packed Nou Camp packed with fans of Barca and Athletic Bilbao before a league match waving both the Catalan and Basque national flags and expressing slogans and singing songs banned since after the end of the Spanish civil war".

Also we as Celtic fans aren't the only ones who enjoy ourselves in Seville, the author explains how many Catalans descend from Andalucians who travelled North in search of work in the early 20th century and this leads to a party which goes on into the night whenever Barca play in Seville against either Betis or Sevilla.

Burns also tells of a system of presidential elections for electing club presidents which I think is unique to Spanish Football, as seen in the recent David Beckham transfer saga, candidates often make the electorate promises of star names coming into the club to boost their vote.  In Barca's case there are over 95,000 members, season ticket holders and socios registered to vote.  Included in this list is the Pope who is an honorary member of the club and fittingly on this point Barca have an indoor chapel in the Nou Camp for the players to worship if they want, though I'm not sure if Pope John Paul voted in the recent election at the Nou Camp, so next time anyone sees someone selling a 'Pope's 11' scarf outside Celtic Park you can point them in the direction of the Nou Camp, unless the PLC board offer the Pontiff a seat on the Celtic board first.

FC St. Pauli

St.Pauli – selling their soul, losing their hearts, splitting the fan scene?

 

Only 2 years ago there was an article in TAL after St Pauli beat Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga’s top league 2:1 at home. But at the end of the season 2001/02 St.Pauli were relegated after only one year in the first Bundesliga. The season 2002/03 must rank as being among the biggest horrors in the life of any St.Pauli-Supporter. No team to speak of, trouble in the boardroom for months, firing and hiring managers and players, being in last place before the winter break, fighting back from January to April but being relegated from Bundesliga 2 in May. We have had the 2 worst seasons in the last 19 years. In the last 2 years we won only 10 out of 66 games, played 20 ties and lost 36 games.

 

Now St.Pauli must play in the 3rd league of Germany against what appears to be big name teams like Hamburg SV, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, 1. FC Cologne and Werder Bremen. But despite the names we will only have to play their amateur/U23 – ie we play against their reserves/second teams.

 

If any Celtic supporters wants to come over for a game take the more exciting games against Dynamo Dresden, Eintracht Braunschweig  or Rot-Weiss Essen (both with a big fascist and hooligan following) or Preußen Münster, Neumünster, Kiel and Leipzig who will bring more away supporters and therefore the games are likely to be more lively.

 

Looking at how things have turned out from another angle, we are lucky even to be playing in the 3rd league. At the end of last season the auditors realised a debt of €2 million €uro. The German Football Association needed to see this hole in our accounts stuffed or we would have become insolvent and would have had to start again as a new club in the 4th league. A big campaign was founded to save the club under the leadership of the chairman Littmann  (newly elected in February by the members of FC St.Pauli). Selling t-Shirts (80.000 have been sold so far), fundraising, selling season tickets very early, playing benefit games against Bayern Munich and our local rivals Hamburg SV and many more ‚Save St Pauli’ campaigns. We got the surety of a bank, which meant that we could pay it back in the end of August. We got the license for the 3rd league from the German Football Association, but a lot rumours went on within the activists of the St.Pauli Fan scene and a lot toads had to be swallowed.

 

More and more people are annoyed by the chairman and the club and how they sell the image of St.Pauli and what the supporters were famous for. Everything which has been criticised by the supporters was answered with „we need the money“, „everything is fine the club has been saved“ - but the political acitivst supporters don´t want the selling out of the soul of the club.

 

We don´t seem to have any pride in our ideals anymore, nobody is rebelling against things like:

 

-          T-Shirts being sold at 40 McDonalds Restaurants. This was the top of the commercialisation of the Merchandising of St.Pauli

-          A game against local rivals Hamburg SV was fixed but at the end it is no „benefit game“ at all because HSV got the money from their ticket sales. Also this game was named as a „Hamburg Football Party“ and the Mayor of Hamburg, Ole von Beust from the right wing party CDU, was installed as a patron. This mayor Ole von Beust also made a PR-appearance in the ticket center to hand over one season ticket and was allowed to portray himself ss a saviour of FC St.Pauli. The same guy is responsible for a right-wing, anti-social and repressive political regime in Hamburg and especially in St.Pauli. He is a man of „law and order“, who has closed down a lot of social institutions, built up more police, repressive laws and batoned down most of the last left-wing marches. Ole von Beust is the top man of the City which is getting even more cold and more repressive than the state of Bayern. And he now stands in the public’s eye as a man of honour who is saving St.Pauli. This is shameful and many people are mad about it.

-          Stupid campaigns like „Drinking for St.Pauli“, „Internet surfing for St.Pauli“, a cd of two pop singers Klaus & Klaus who have been prostituted at nearly all north German football teams were produced.

-          Around the benefit game against Bayern Munich (which was a much appreciated generous thing by Bayern) the club went mad on a „friendship“ story. They produce friendship scarfs with the symbols of both clubs, T-Shirts for that game and the chairman Littmann was talking in the ground to the public and was speaking of the „beginning of a wonderful friendship“. In the same time Uli Hoeness, the celebrated manager of Bayern Munich, and his colleagues of the board forbid 250 hardcore supporters of Munich to buy seasonal tickets and put 3 supporters clubs on a ban list. There only fault was, that they are „Ultras“ and the active part of the supporters scene of Munich. They are critising the board of Munich how they sell away tickets, about building up the new stadium and fight against commercialism in football. St.Pauli-Supporters were solidarising with the Bayern supporters and made banners to show support, whilst at the same time the club St.Pauli and the chairman were celebrating the board of Munich.

 

The new chairman of St.Pauli is working (as a theatre director) and living in the suburb of St.Pauli for many years. But he is also a good friend of the mayor and he is clearly trying to change the nature of the club. He always says that politics and football must not mix and that people on marches shouldn´t wear clothes with a club symbol, scarfs or hats, yet he is responsible for installing a right-wing CDU Mayor (who is a politician) as a patron and saviour of our club.

 

The supporters scene of St.Pauli is changing. Less people rebel against what is happening, more people just want to see football and don´t care about politics or what the club stood for in the past. The active part of the St.Pauli support has to wake up and fight this development. If we lose that fight St.Pauli will go a long way towards becoming yet another faceless club like a dozen others in Germany.

 

Back to sport: At the moment we don´t have famous players signed, only unknown and young or talented players. It will be very hard to come back in professional football.

 

See you at the Champions League matches - Up the Celts & St.Pauli!

 

By Sankt Pauli Anti-Fascist

TÁL Interview - James Connolly Society

* How many people attend your marches and how often are they held

 

Republican marches are held throughout the year and throughout the country. Every month there are marches held to mark events in the republican calendar. From commemorations of republicans who have gave their lives in every phase of the republican struggle from James Connolly and Tom Williams to Billy Reid and Bobby Sands. These marches vary in size. Some are local commemorations organised by the Republican Bands Alliance others are national events like the Connolly march in Edinburgh organised by the James Connolly Society. These range from a few hundred to the ten thousand who took part in the twentieth anniversary of the Irish Hunger Strike march held in Glasgow two years ago.

 

* What obstacles have you faced in arranging marches?

 

As well as organisational difficulties which any organisers of events on this scale face it is true republicans have also had hurdles placed in our way by political opponents. Organisers of our marches have been victims of threats and intimidation from Loyalist and fascist groups. Our members and supporters have also had to endure harassment from police and the media.

 

Recently mainstream politicians have supported calls from the far right for our community to be denied our right to assemble and of political expression in places such as Wishaw. Our community has the same rights as everyone else, no more and no less. Attempts to deny us our rights are doomed to fail.

 

* Do you feel republican parades in Scotland exacerbate sectarian divisions?

 

Republican marches are not just non-sectarian they are anti-sectarian. Republicanism is an inclusive ideology. Religion has no place on republican marches. Our events are political not religious. Our opponents oppose us because of our political analysis which is based on the principle of equality. Republican marches support a political philosophy which offers hope of a better future for all the people of these islands. As the father of modern republicanism said, "We are for Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter."

 

* How do you view orange parades in Scotland?

 

It is our view that people have the right to march. Clearly we do not share the Orange orders excusive doctrine. We view Orange marches as political. They defend all we wish to change about society: privilege, discrimination and triumphalism. We believe the Orange Order has the right to march and like everyone else should do so with the consent of local residents.

 

* Do you feel sectarianism in Scotland is a major problem?

 

Sectarianism and anti-Irish racism is a major problem in Scottish society. We need a grown up discussion about what the problem is and what it is not. Most of what is described as sectarian is in fact anti-Irish racism. It is quite unseemly to see middle aged, middle class male politicians rushing to the television cameras to condemn as sectarian aspects of other communities culture they don't understand. 

 

Irish republicans in Scotland are prepared to play our part in combating sectarianism and racism in this country. We remain willing to work with others to this end. We understand better than anyone the need to do so. It is after all our community that has been the victims of racism and sectarianism for over a hundred years.

 

Is there anything else you feel needs to be said?

 

Irish republican groups have been involved in several anti-racist and anti-fascist groups over the last twenty years. We remain to the forefront of those challenging racists on our streets. Very often it is the same people engaged in racist attacks that oppose our events. This is no coincidence. The connectedness between racism and sectarianism and between the Orange Order and far right groups is well documented.

James Connolly Commemoration 2003

Scotland march backs united Ireland
 
BY CAROLINE BELLAMY  


EDINBURGH, Scotland—Up to 1,000 people marched here June 7 (2003) in support of the fight for a united Ireland and in memory of James Connolly, the Edinburgh-born revolutionary socialist and a central leader of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland (see article ‘The 1916 Easter Rebellion’ in this issue). Accompanied by six flute bands playing songs of the struggle and carrying the Irish tricolor, the Scottish saltire, and other banners—including the Palestinian and Basque flags—the marchers, who spanned generations, confidently asserted their right to march through the center of the Scottish capital.

 

“This is the 10th anniversary of this march. Ten years ago, the council said, ‘You’ll never have another republican march in Edinburgh.’ Well, we’ve shown them and it’s because people like you are prepared to come out on the street,” Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society, which organized the march, told the rally afterwards.

 

In 1993 the James Connolly Society broke a ban on the march and went ahead with the demonstration. The police arrested 50 people and Slaven was jailed for refusing to pay a fine for organizing an “illegal” protest.

 

“In 1994, the Society stood me in the council elections on a republican platform to highlight the issue,” Slaven told the Militant. “By the end of the campaign people were asking candidates on the doorstep why they were banning the Connolly march. We also took the fight to them and held protests anywhere we could. It became more cost and trouble than it was worth for them to maintain the ban.” Last year, the group scored another victory by pushing back police demands that they fly only one Irish tricolor on the march. Despite provocative numbers of cops partly in riot gear, who made a show of examining flags, march stewards ensured that the event passed off successfully.

 

Eoin O’Broin, Sinn Fein councilor for North Belfast, addressed the rally. “Irish unity is going to happen!” he announced to cheers and applause. Referring to London’s cancellation of the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly that should have taken place on May 29, he said, “The Good Friday Agreement is an essential part of our strategy. Why else would they cancel elections that would lead to further gains for Sinn Fein? Because they don’t like the results. They can run from us but they can’t hide. When we do have elections our political strategy will be there for all to see.”

 

In a later interview O’Broin said, “People are furious at what has been done. The British government just said that ‘the results will not be beneficial to the peace process’ and so they cancel the election. They are worried about challenges to David Trimble’s leadership, but the Unionists are only as strong as the British allow. We will be mobilizing people to get this message across, which will also empower them.”

 

David Trimble is the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, the main party in the six counties in the north of Ireland occupied by London that defends maintaining Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. Sinn Fein is the party leading the struggle for a united Ireland.

 

O’Broin pointed to the 5,000-strong demonstration to commemorate the 1981 hunger strike in Belfast on May 4 and the many mobilizations across Ireland and in London and New York on May 29 to protest the cancellation of the elections.“We’re also looking to make August’s internment commemoration march following the West Belfast festival big this year,” he stated.

 

The Irish struggle takes on particular importance in Scotland as the Irish and those of Irish descent are the largest immigrant group, making up about 16 percent of the population. Large numbers migrated following the Irish famine of the 1840s, settling mainly in the central belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh and including these two cities.

 

Systematic job discrimination on the basis of religion parallel to that in Northern Ireland persisted until recent years. Its legacy still divides the working class today. A recent BBC poll showed that more than 13 percent of Scots had experienced some form of “sectarianism”, with Catholics four times more likely to be subject to attack as Protestants. One in five of those affected were physically assaulted.

 

“I’m on the march because I like to be seen to be involved with things I believe in,” said Billy Hughes from Granton in Edinburgh. “I’m half Irish myself. I think Irish people are discriminated against by the majority, labelled as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.”

 

“I’m in a flute band to support a 32-county socialist republic of Ireland,” said Kelly Phinn who plays in the Volunteer Tom Williams Republican Flute Band. “What else can you do to be involved?” A fellow band member who asked that his name not to be used said that he joined because, growing up, his was the only Catholic family in the close (apartment block). Pro-British, anti-Catholic Orange flute bands would make a point of stopping outside and banging their drums to intimidate the family inside.

 

Orange marches and loyalist band parades continue to be a feature of life here.

 

A season of marches was approved by West Lothian council on March 25, the largest involving up to 12,000 marching through West Calder, a town of around 4,000 people. This was in spite of residents’ concern over the size of the march and the consequent disruption. Local councillor Eddie Malcolm backed the decision saying, “I will defend the rights of anybody to march or protest providing it stays within the laws of the land.” In the neighbouring county of North Lanarkshire, councillors banned a Republican march in the town of Wishaw on January 25, hours before it was due to start on the pretext of “a threat of significant disorder.”

 

Jack McConnell, the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament approved of the decision, saying that when processions are used to promote sectarianism, he would expect the police to “take action.” He has made no comment on the frequent Orange marches through the town.

 

In a blow to this denial of democratic rights, organizers have won an agreement to hold their march June 14. “They’re trying to make us hold it at 9:00 a.m.,” said a member of the Crossmaglen Patriots RFB from Wishaw, “but we’re pushing to have it later. I don’t think they’ll get away with banning it at the last minute this time.”

 

At the end of last year, McConnell pledged to “end an attitude [sectarianism] which, like racism, is a stain on Scotland’s reputation.”

In reality, this campaign has been a cover to push back growing expressions of Irish nationalism.

 

“The focus on the Irish community is ironic,” wrote Slaven in An Phoblacht/Republican News, “as it is our community that suffers disproportionately from intolerance and discrimination. The victim community is blamed for provoking the attacks.”

 

The British rulers push the notion that “both sides are as bad as each other” in irrational religious hatred, a myth that allows them to pose as neutral arbiters and hide the reality that it is London that creates and benefits from divisions among working people. In this framework, McConnell backed proposals requiring Catholic and other state schools to share facilities such as dining rooms, assembly halls, and playgrounds.

 

The state has funded Catholic schools in Scotland since 1918. They now account for about 18 percent of pupils in over 400 schools.

Though other state schools are routinely referred to as “secular” or “non-denominational,” they are in reality Protestant. A correspondent to the Herald newspaper recalled “visits by the local minister, being dragged along to the local kirk and singing from the Church of Scotland hymnbook.”

 

Damian Brogan and Lawrence Connolly explained on the Connolly march that they did not agree that separate schooling caused sectarianism. “One of the reasons there was a separate system in the first place was that Protestants wouldn’t have their children taught alongside Catholics,” Connolly said. “If they want to fight sectarianism they have to admit where it comes from in the first place. There are Catholic schools all over the world and you don’t have the same problems there.” 

Bring Them Home

 

The Bogota Three

by Toni Solo
September 08, 2003

 

When President Bush attends fundraisers in Miami he certainly needs to watch out for terrorists. But no worries - they're likely to be on the invited guest list. Orlando Bosch and Virgilio Paz are just two prominent Miami Cubans who were members of a US sponsored terrorist gang active when Bush Sr was their boss as head of the CIA.(1) Like his father and brother Jeb, George W. Bush too is politically associated with these unrepentant terrorists.(2) Two other members of the gang, Luis Posada Carriles and Guillermo Novo, are currently on trial on terrorist charges in Panama.

Rather than strengthen the rule of law President Bush has systematically trashed the very norms and institutions that uphold it. "Our terrorists" - the imperial variety - are all right. No need to target them in the "war on terror" which only applies to "foreign terrorists". "Our terrorists" harass the current convenient enemy - formerly in Nicaragua or Angola, always Cuba, now Venezuela - deal in drugs to pay for the networks, and serve as enforcers when the populations in other imperial "democracies" get out of hand.(3)

The Irish Connection


In the summer of 2001, three Irishmen were arrested in Colombia and accused of terrorism as they left a zone controlled by the FARC armed opposition group during a truce period. A look at the background to their plight exposes the US-UK coalition's hypocrisy on terrorism. Every sign is that the three men, now in prison in Bogota, are victims of a crude frame-up. They insist they were on a fact-finding visit carrying video equipment so as to record material for use with organizations promoting peace back in Ireland.

The men - Niall Connolly, Martin MacAuley and James Monaghan - are all republicans who support the Good Friday peace agreement in Ireland. MacAuley and Monaghan are ex-political prisoners. Both have promoted conflict resolution work since their release from prison. Niall Connolly is a carpenter who has worked in community development and solidarity activities in Latin America since the early 1990s.

Before they were arrested, Sinn Fein was making steady electoral progress throughout Ireland, and the Unionist leadership in Belfast was in trouble. At the time, the Ulster Unionists and British government were using the issue of disarmament to stall full implementation of the Good Friday peace agreement. In that context, the men's arrest was timely and convenient.

For death squad and drugs kingpins - the velvet touch


Contrast the treatment of these three Irish solidarity tourists with that accorded to Carlos Castaño, Salvatore Mancuso and Juan Carlos Sierra, leaders of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), notorious paramilitary allies of the Colombian military. In 1997, the US Attorney General accused them of arranging to ship 17 tons of cocaine to the US and Europe. But no practical steps have been taken to arrest the three.

In November 2002 it was revealed that the Colombian government under President Uribe was in "ceasefire" negotiations with Castaño and the AUC. Uribe has close links to these narcotics dealing murderers.(4) Opposition Colombian politicians see the talks with the AUC as a preliminary to the formal integration of the death squads into the Colombian military. This move has the blessing of the Bush regime.

War on terrorism bonanza


Uribe is just the latest corrupt and repressive Colombian leader to receive US support since the 1960s. With an uncooperative popular government in oil-rich Venezuela and a voracious need to control oil resources for its profligate world-polluting economy, the US government has destined $98 million to help protect a Colombian oil pipeline. A total of US$1.5 billion in military aid has been scheduled for the period 2002-2004. Colombia is the third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel and Egypt.

In Colombia, poverty indicators are among the worst in Latin America. One per cent of the elite owns 55% of the land. 15.7 million of Colombia's 44 million inhabitants are children, 39% of them in poverty. The latest figures from UNICEF conclude that 67% of the total population live below the poverty line (80% in rural areas). 11 million people live in extreme poverty, unable even to feed themselves properly.

While the country goes hungry, President Uribe plays the "war on terrorism" card, tricking billions of dollars of aid from United States taxpayers to attack his domestic opponents. Similarly, as part of the equally bogus "war on drugs" the US has waged widespread chemical and biological warfare against hapless rural populations - to no avail. Drug production in Colombia has actually increased.(5) Here, as in Iraq, oil industry insiders like Vice-President Dick Cheney, President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice unscrupulously use US military muscle and aid to promote private business interests. Drugs and terrorism are convenient pretexts.

Leading US politicians are aware of the manipulation. In March 2002, US Representative Ron Paul member of the House International Relations Committee and the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere spoke against a bill authorizing expansion of US intervention in Colombia, "I was only made aware of the existence of this legislation this morning, just a couple of hours before I was expected to vote on it. There was no committee mark-up of the legislation, nor was there any notice that this legislation would appear on today's suspension calendar.....This legislation represents a very serious and significant shift in United States policy toward Colombia. It sets us on a slippery slope toward unwise military intervention in a foreign civil war that has nothing to do with the United States."


The Bogota 3 case - the facts and the spin

After September 11th 2001, the case against Connolly, McAuley and Monaghan became a small but significant component of the US-UK spinning of "the war on terrorism". The facts of their case are simple. They are accused of travelling using false identity papers and training anti-government FARC guerrillas. They admit the first accusation but vehemently deny the second. The three insist they used false documents because they feared being harassed had they used their real identities to travel.

The main charge is that of training FARC members in explosives and mortar technology. Soon after their arrest, US embassy personnel tested them and their belongings for explosive traces. The tests used equipment requiring special care with both calibration and with anti-contamination procedures to produce trustworthy results. These procedures were not followed and the tests showed positive. Subsequent tests carried out by the Colombian authorities using correct procedures produced opposite results.

The only other evidence presented against the three is witness testimony from two young men alleged to be former FARC members and who were under Colombian army "protection" . Both so-called witnesses testified earlier this year that at different times between 1998 and 2001 they witnessed explosives and mortar training by the three men. But all three defendants have solid, respectable alibi evidence that places them outside Colombia on those dates.

No technical evidence was presented in the case to justify claims of "skills transfer" of arms technology. There is no hard evidence against the three to contradict their explanation of their visit to the FARC zone at a time when the ceasefire with the government was still in place. But they are still in prison in Bogotá and face long sentences if convicted. They are victims of "war on terrorism" political theatre orchestrated through a lazy, complacent news media.

Fiction and reality


The "war on terrorism" is the US government's justification for pre-emptive military attacks it deems necessary to promote US business and economic interests. Some governments collaborate out of arrogance as supporting bit-players, like the administrations of Tony Blair in the UK and Jose Maria Aznar in Spain. Others cave in to US pressure, like the Irish government. This deep cynicism and hypocrisy are nothing new.

Grotesque inequality in Colombia has caused forty years of bitter, miserable conflict - a catastrophe with lessons for everyone. The three Irishmen under arrest in Bogota took an interest in Colombia before the "war on terrorism" confidence trick really began. Tony Blair's government has used the men's predicament to deceive people about British policy in Ireland just as he, Aznar and George Bush have lied about Iraq. Connolly, MacAuley and Monaghan risk becoming forgotten pawns in this cynical geo-political propaganda war.


Toni Solo is an activist based in Central America and can be reached at: tonisolo52@yahoo.com

Notes
1. Hernando Calvo Ospina, "Pinochet, la CIA y los terroristas cubanos", 23 de agosto del 2003, http://www.rebelion.org/. Ospina's essay summarises evidence from many reliable sources that Bosch, Novo, Paz, Posada and others were part of the US/Chilean supported terrorist gang - at one time authorised by Vernon Walters, later US representative to the UN - responsible for the following crimes among many others:

* In 1974, the murder of Chilean General Carlos Prats and his wife in Buenos Aires
* In February 1975 an attack on Chilean exiles Carlos Altamirano and Volodia Teitelboim in Mexico.
* October 1975, in Rome, an attack against Bernardo Leighton a Chilean dissident politician.
* March 1976. Failed murder attempt in Costa Rica against Chilean dissident Pascal Allende.
* August 1976 after failing in a kidnap attempt on the Cuban ambassador on Buenos Aires, the gang kidnapped and disappeared two other Cuban diplomats.
* In September 1976, the murder of ex-Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his American assistant, Ronni Moffit in Washington.
* In October 1976 the gang bombed a civilian Cuban airliner causing over 70 deaths.

2. Orlando Bosch was about to be deported from the US in 1988. George Bush Sr. blocked it. His son George W. Bush had Virgilio Paz freed from deportation custody just before September 11th 2001.  Florida governor Jeb Bush relies on organizations that have harboured and supported these  terrorists - such as the National Cuban American Foundation - to fund his re-election campaigns. For the Posada Carriles connection see the report by Ann Bardach. July 12-13, 1998 New York Times.

3.Contractors playing increasing role in U.S. drug war. Tod Robberson DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Sunday, 27 February 2000.

4. Doing the United States Dirty Work. Israel and the Colombian paramilitaries. Jeremy Bigwood. August 15th 2003 http://www.rebelion.org/

5. US Biological Terrorism in Colombia. How Dr. Mengele Might Wage the Drug War. Jeffrey St. Clair. Counterpunch 2003 http://www.counterpunch.com/