Sectarianism and Me
I was born in Govan, literally a stone’s throw from Ibrox stadium, into a Roman Catholic family. My Dad didn’t practice his faith but did usually have a magic fried breakfast on the table for us coming back from 12 o’clock mass on a Sunday. My Mum insisted we had to go and despite it being an on/off affair since my teens I still feel it is important to me and I’m trying hard to raise my 3 kids the way I was. Don’t ask me to explain what my faith means to me or what I get out of going to mass but it definitely gives me something, just a feeling that is hard to put into words.
My Dad was more of a horses man so never took me to see Celtic other than on one occasion in the mid 70s although he often took me and my brother to see Scotland at Hampden. Dalglish, McGrain, McQueen, Jordan, you know the teams and the quality of the old days when we used to be able to play a bit and qualify for World Cups.
I grew up in a house where there was no sectarianism, no bigotry, no racism. My Mum particularly was very open and accepting of everyone, and I’ve tried to be the same but I’m sorry to say I haven’t always been able to uphold her high standards.
I went to RC schools in Govan and contrary to popular opinion they didn’t teach bigotry but I suppose we did kind of learn it in the playground. I wouldn’t have dared take it into the house! I worked in a supermarket in Wishaw in the mid-90s and learned proper sectarianism from my first day when a colleague’s mother asked my surname. When she was told what it was, and it’s recognisably Irish, her reply was along the lines of ‘I thought so, the f……g Irish is shining out of him’. WOW! That was an eye opener. My colleague just laughed as he told me. I was there for less than 2 years and by the time I left I was matching peoples’ surnames to their religion or asking what school they’d gone to and it stuck with me for a while. I suppose I became a bigot in Wishaw. I’ve spent a long time re-educating myself but I have to admit I occasionally fall into the old trap of jumping to conclusions or tagging people before you actually know them. It’s not always about religion, it can be colour or sexuality, it’s not something I’m proud of but it’s something I continually try to re-educate about myself.
The announcement that James Dornan has given up his crusade against sectarianism is disheartening. That such a public figure, who refused to take sides on the matter and has been castigated by all because of it, has had to rethink his position is incredible in such enlightened times. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the swing towards right wing politics across the world. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the inability of both sides in Scotland to understand maybe there is middle ground that could allow us to move on from the narrow-mindedness that festers and prohibits us from really being able to show the rest of the UK that we are able to become a fully functioning, self fulfilling BEST LITTLE COUNTRY. Perhaps we need James Dornan and Nil By Mouth and Show Racism The Red Card to put REAL pressure on CENTRAL Government to come up with REAL solutions to this problem.
I am guilty of whataboutery. I do think The Rangers support is worse than the Celtic support at all this stuff. I do believe we can point to many, many instances where they have got it so wrong. They do sing their anti-Catholic songs, continually. Even when there are no Catholics about! You can hear it when you tune into to any of their games. We do sing our Rebs in support of the IRA, for a long time I’ve supported this as political in an ‘anti-Colonial’ way, and I believe it is, but perhaps we all need to take a step back.
It is now unacceptable to discriminate against virtually everything. I’m not yet at the point of agreeing with this although I’m constantly being educated by my 18, 16 and 14 year olds about what is and isn’t politically correct or acceptable. I’m learning but I’m definitely not there yet. I wish I was but I’m stuck somewhere between the 1690s and the 1990s! That’s a joke, btw! I am learning that offence is something that’s taken by the person who is offended, not by the person who is making the offending comment. This is complex. Actually, this is very complex and requires not only presence of mind to say the right thing at the right time in the right company…or just don’t say anything at all. This is very difficult when your starting point is stuck in the 1690s, or more recently in my case.
We have a socio-politically aware element in the Green Brigade. They are not Right Wing in their outlook but their anti-Establishment militantism follows the pattern of what is happening in world politics right now. They will not be told how to behave. They have been punished because of this. They refuse to bow to punishment. They react to situations with defiance. I think they have a place for good at the Club. By that I mean they are able to bring good to the Club. They can be invaluable to the team by their ability to create and sustain a positive atmosphere in what can sometimes be a dull. seated Celtic Park. But the GB are our starting point for change, they have the ability to drive change. We need them to concentrate on the football not the politics. This is difficult as sport and politics, as long as both have been around, have been intertwined. They cannot be separated despite the efforts of FIFA and UEFA, at this point I should have been able to add the SFA and the SPFL but unfortunately they are definitely stuck somewhere between the 1690s and the 1990s (sorry, that’s not a joke!)
For this country to move forward, for our Society to bring itself into the 21st Century, requires introspection from all parties. We know the Establishment is not interested in change, remember this is a predominantly Church of Scotland conservative (note the small ‘c’) country. For change to happen it must come from us, the Celtic support. We need to drive this, we need to show the rest of the country, indeed the UK, that what was previously accepted is no more.
I have said it before, we are the more tolerant support, we are the more politically aware, we have the moral upper hand. We need Celtic to back us, they need to support us. They can start at CP by banning the IRA references in our chants. We can ask them to ban the ‘Cheer up Walter Smith/Ally McCoist/Stevie G’ chants. We can make these unacceptable, it will take time but probably not as much time as you’d think if the message is delivered in the right way. Because we ARE inclusive. We always have been its just that sometimes we forget it.
Then there won’t be any whataboutery. Then it will be them, The Rangers support, singing their bile. Then we can point the finger and say ‘We told you it was them!’ And where will the Parliament hide then!
James Dornan might think he’s given up, but maybe he’s just started!
The above guest article is by Mc Caff. We are more than happy to publish contributions of any kind and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org