An astonishing verdict

Posted by talfanzine on September 1, 2011 at 8:30 PM

“An astonishing verdict…”

Those were the words used by a BBC reporter who relayed the news to Radio 5 Live’s primetime 'Drive' programme after a jury returned the ‘not proven’ verdicts on two of the three charges against John Wilson, a Hearts fan, who millions around the world witnessed attacking the Celtic manager Neil Lennon in a match between Hearts and Celtic at Tynecastle at the end of last season’

Such is the malaise in Scottish society that some of its most backward neanderthal elements believe it is acceptable to physically attack a 'taig', in the street or at a football match. Sure, don't they bring it on themselves?

He's got ginger hair as well, for God's sake, he was asking for it!

But never mind all that, let's reserve our sympathy for poor Mr Wilson, who must surely now be regarded as a victim of a grave miscarriage of justice that he was convicted on the charge of 'breach of the peace' for running on to the trackside at Tynecastle. Sure wasn't he only stretching his legs due to the cramped conditions that night?!?

Yes, I am joking.

In fact, didn't Neil Lennon attack himself and we are all the victims of mass hallucination brought on by our upbringing in an 'apartheid education system' (yes, this is what they believe) and all those years that we've spent oppressing the Protestant majority by means of 'Kafflik Labour Councils'?

It is the opinion of many who followed the case closely that the Procurator Fiscal botched the charges in the Tynecastle case. I believe that the pressure that was brought to bear on his office by the statements of the Scottish First Minister about 'dealing with the sectarian problem once and for all' which had a bearing on the charges that were brought against Wilson.

The jury's bizarre verdict may have even have been more politically motivated than 'sectarian', but they were still WRONG. Wilson should have been charged with assault aggravated by racism rather than the sectarianism charge, which was always going to be highly contestable. The jury could and should have been properly directed by the judge in terms of what they could do to alter the charges. They could also have been directed, given the admissions made by Wilson on the witness stand and the statements of his defence counsel, that they really had no choice other than to find him guilty at least on the charges of breach of the peace and assault, if not on the ‘aggravated by sectarianism’ count.

For what it's worth, I think that the odious Wilson will now probably get off with 'time served' and a community service order and/or medical treatment, which is probably appropriate. He should count himself very lucky with that, but how long will it be before he is feted as a hero by the racists and have an unofficial hearts or rangers supporters club name itself after him - the John Wilson Loyal?

The ‘astonishing outcome’ of the trial means that Scotland's largest ethnic minority, the Irish community, will view this verdict as further evidence of institutionalised discrimination against them and that their civil rights as citizens and indeed their personal safety on the streets and in public places in Scotland cannot be guaranteed, nor can their attackers expect to be dealt with harshly.

There was, however, a quite bizarre and disturbing statement made on Newsnight Scotland by Paul McBride QC who is feted as a hero by many Celtic fans. Towards the end of an interview where he stated that the outcomeof the trial was 'deplorable' and in which he restated his full support for the ill-advised 'anti-sectarian' legislation, he remarked that a jury system that allows 'people who cannot read, write or count'  to become jurors would have to be seriously looked at. I have no idea how many of the jurors at the trial in Edinburgh may have been illiterate, semi-literate or holding doctorates, but the class nature of his comments was apparent and should serve as a reminder that some people even in our own 'Celtic Family' apparently believe themselves to be more equal than others.

The fear now is that the proposed ‘anti-sectarian’ legislation going through committee stage in the Scottish Parliament is a double-edge sword that aims to 'equalise' the misery, painting the victims of racism as the architects of their own misfortune.

As Joe O’Rourke of the Celtic Supporters Association put it:

What we need to do is look at the wider picture; there has in the last year been a number of instances where we in the Celtic Family have been treated as less than equal; and right throughout Scottish Society; from the Government to the Police and the SFA….  We have to stand up to this kind of treatment. Last Sunday at New St Mirren Park once again every Celtic Supporter was subjected to a body search; we are continually being criminalised for wearing a green and white scarf; well it’s not on; and it must stop.

The new legislation for offensive behaviour at regulated football matches in Scotland will be law in the New Year; the Celtic Supporters Association will give full unconditional support to any of our supporters who are unfairly arrested and charged; we will not stand idly by and let our supporters be demonised by the bigots in Scotland.

This is an honourable and commendable position that the CelticSupporters Association have adopted. They stand head and shoulders above those so-called legal heroes and self-obsessed ‘rebel journalists’ who would have us comply with the legislation.

Vested interests in our own community who present themselves as 'rebels' but who are in fact ultra-conservatives are backing the legislation and telling us that we must limit our cultural and political aspirations, It’s ironic that the man who has claimed to be a champion of the civil rights of the Irish in Scotland should be advancing the argument for what is clearly bad legislation that shouldn’t just be tinkered around with and adapted to, but which should be opposed and derailed. Sure, didn’t he himself argue that this generation of confident well-educated young Irish Scots (or Scots Irish) would not be content to do as their parents and grandparents might have done and  'keep the heid doon' and ‘sit at the back of the bus’?

What has happened to make someone who claimed to be a ‘rebel’ acquiesce so easily without so much as a fight? For Phil’s information, we will continue to do as we have been, we will not be returning to the back seats of the bus, nor will we be doffing the cap and tugging the forelock to our so-called 'betters' in our own community.

Finally, I think it’s important to state where we stand in relation to that team on the other side of the city. As football supporters it is perfectly natural to take pleasure at the misfortunes of our greatest rivals. They did it to us when we hit the financial rocks a few years ago and currently Celtic supporters are enjoying the financial shenanigans and revelations about the tax difficulties of the Ibrox club. That’s football and that’s football supporters. Live with it.

I don’t care that much about what happens over there; it’s their business not ours. Let them sink or swim on their own. The danger in constantly chipping away at them and calling for more and more legislation to control their supporters is that the same legislation can then be turned on us and used as a means to define as 'sectarian' songs which clearly are not, further gentrify the game and cleanse it of its working class character and traditional rivalries. It is a double-edge sword and it will be enforced as harshly against our supporters as it is against the fans of any other club.  

They can celebrate their British identity as they see fit, but they must celebrate their own identity without the hate and vitriol of racial abuse and physical attacks on the Irish Catholic minority community. Those from that tradition must also accept that the Irish community in Scotland has a civil right to celebrate its culture and identity in its own way, again without racism or violence.

I believe that militant loyalism and unionism in Scotland will be increasingly marginalised as the country moves forward politically, perhaps even towards independence, and that we are seeing a disgruntled, alienated, anti-social section of working class loyalism punching itself out. We should, however, remain vigilant. Just because they are on their last legs, it doesn’t make them any less dangerous. We should always remember that some of our youngest supporters have paid for supporting Celtic with their lives.

The truth is though that this fascist element are as much a scourge on their own community as they are on ours.

The bigger picture is that the institutionalised nature of anti-Catholicism and anti-Irish racism must be exposed and politically fought. It is this that the SNP government must confront 'once and for all'. Their misnamed 'anti-sectarian' legislation is incapable of addressing the issue because the legislation that they are determined to push through the parliament is not about controlling THEM, as in the perpetrators of racism', it is about controlling US, the victims of racism.



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