Celebrate Identity – Challenge Intolerance

Two games into the new season and the self-appointed ‘Thought Police’ among a section of our fans in cyberspace are already screaming about ‘inappropriate songs’ being sung by our supporters.

We felt it appropriate to remind them of this excellent analysis from September 2010 that came out of a diversity training programme run by the much respected organisation CICI (Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance)

Summary of Equality and Diversity training – Celtic Football Club supporters

Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance recently delivered Equality and Diversity training for supporters groups and fans of Celtic Football Club. The training day covered a whole range of issues ranging from political expressions and ideology to sectarianism, racism, Irish culture and wider Equality issues.

Owing to social myths and misconceptions many of the songs that are frequently heard within football stadia have been incorrectly categorised and cultural ignorance has sought to sectarianise certain songs when such accusations are without foundation. Consequently this has created a confusion around songs that are heard within Celtic Park and stadia throughout Scotland and beyond.

Various Celtic supporters groups were represented at the training day. Within the content of the Equality and Diversity training day we focused on the rules and regulations which effectively govern football supporters in and around stadia in Scotland, as well as ensuring there was an emphasis on wider Scottish law. We also offered clarification on the long standing controversy around Irish songs, this being an area of concern for many Celtic FC supporters and the wider Irish community in Scotland.

We wish to make clear that :

A ) Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance is an Equality and Diversity consultancy. Our fundamental position is that people have a right to celebrate their identity regarding the Protected characteristics within Equality and also have the right not to be discriminated against for the same aspects of identity.

B ) What is set out below is coming from an Equality perspective, we are apolitical and as such do not enter into current and ongoing political matters, ideology or belief.

C ) It is intended as a guide only for supporters, what is set out below has not had any approval from Celtic Football Club, the football authorities or the police. We cannot give guarantees that supporters will not be intimidated, threatened, ejected from stadia, banned from stadia or charged for what is legitimate expression.

D ) We are not advocating that supporters sing any particular song, our findings are around rights and responsibilities from an Equality perspective.


Scottish Premier League and Celtic FC Unacceptable Conduct

From the Scottish Premier Leagues Unacceptable Conduct document which has been adopted by Scottish Premier League clubs, there is a clear opposition to any expressions which are motivated by racial and religious intolerance. The stadium regulations of the club also makes clear that the club is opposed to homophobic abuse. From a societal perspective it is the areas of race, religion and sexuality that engender a level of hostility that leads to most physical abuse and Hate Crime in such a violent form. As an Equality and Diversity consultancy we are fully supportive of the position of both Celtic Football Club and the Scottish Premier League. As such we would encourage supporters to inform stewards and the police of any such abuse but would also discourage supporters from language that is pejorative around age, disability and gender. Within the Unacceptable Conduct of the SPL and member clubs there is also reference which seeks to dissuade supporters from engaging in derogatory references to a ‘social or cultural group with perceived religious affiliation’.

With this in mind, and taking into account certain chants that have been heard historically in and around the environs that Celtic Football Club play their fixtures we would ask fans to desist in any chants which are based around the Orange Order and wider Loyal Orders. There could, additionally, be problems for supporters who engage in the song commonly referred to as ‘Roamin in the Gloamin’, primarily for the interjection in the ‘song’ which states ‘Fuck King Billy and John Knox’. Supporters have been ejected and subsequently banned from football for such expressions in the past and on this issue we fully support both the club and the police. Whilst we understand that such expressions have became more infrequent in recent years it is imperative to point out that such chants and interjections are not conducive in any way to creating a more tolerant society.

Within the training day around this issue we also emphasized the importance of ensuring that racist attitudes are challenged and opposed. Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance made supporters aware that racism is no longer solely based around the abuse of an individual or group owing to skin colour. More and more racist abuse is directed at people through nationality, national origins, citizenship and ethnicity and again we support the stance of the clubs and police in removing such abuse.

Celtic FC Stadium Regulations

Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance main focus in this area centred on Section 11 and fully support the position of the club which states that any sectarian, racist, and homophobic abuse is strictly forbidden within Celtic Park. Section 11 states that ‘The use of threatening behaviour, foul or abusive language is strictly FORBIDDEN. Racial, sectarian, political, homophobic or discriminatory abuse or chanting is also forbidden and is considered as unacceptable conduct and may result in arrest and a lifetime ban from regulated football matches’. With a ‘political’ reference our view is that this is intended to ensure that there are no endorsements of proscribed organisations as decided by the Home Office and British Government. This view stems from comments on several occasions attributed to Celtic FC Chief Executive Peter Lawwell, comments which state that any support or songs themed around proscribed groups such as the Provisional IRA are unwelcome where Celtic FC are playing, either at Celtic Park or away from home. This position effectively disallows songs such as Roll of Honour, Crossmaglen, Long Kesh and others that are similarly themed. On the issue of visual expressions with political connotations or motives we ensured that we covered the issue of flags and symbology as this had been an area of concern for some supporters. As there is no Flags and Emblems Act we informed those in attendance that on a point of law there are no illegal flags as such. We feel this important to point out around the matter of the Ikurrina, commonly known as the Basque flag, and also the Palestinian flag. Neither flag is prohibited in their respective regions, the Ikurrina being legalized in 1977 and the Palestinian flags’ ban being all but removed in Israel in the early 1990’s and with this in mind we would find it perplexing why either flag would be banned beyond the respective areas. On this we would also like to dispel the myth that the flag known as the Starry Plough is illegal. We feel it would be helpful and offer greater transparency if Celtic Football Club could offer a more detailed description in writing of what they feel is unacceptable from a political perspective.

Section 74 – Criminal Justice Act Scotland 2003

This particular section is based around offences with a ‘religious aggravation’. These are offences where ‘the offender shows malice or ill-will towards the victim based on the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a religious group or group with a perceived religious affiliation, or ‘the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by malice or ill-will towards members of a religious group or group with a perceived religious affiliation’. The content of Section 74 is such that it makes clear that any abuse based on religion is a criminal offence, and also that any abuse against those belonging to or associated with a ‘group with a perceived religious affiliation’ could lead to arrest. The wording of Section 74 means that engaging in abuse which is anti-Orange in nature could lead to arrest and a charge of ‘Religiously Aggravated Breach of the Peace’ even although Orangeism is not a religion or faith. There have been cases where such verbal abuse has led to court cases and convictions and this can potentially affect any supporter whether they are Catholic, Protestant, any other religion, or indeed of no religion or faith.

We would also point out that there are legal grounds for charges relating to any form of racist abuse and we fully support both the club and the police in ensuring that both racial and religious prejudice is dealt with. Finally on this matter, we wish to emphasize that illustrating a pride in religion or faith or making a representation of faith does not breach Section 74 of the Criminal Justice Act Scotland. In the flags that have been brought to Celtic Park and away fixtures there have been symbolic representations of Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam and this does not infringe on any of the above rules and regulations.

Irish songs

It is this area that has created the most controversy. Whilst we appreciate that this is and has been an emotive issue, our view is that this controversy has emanated from certain songs and expressions being erroneously classed as sectarian. We have agreed to create a list of Irish songs that are not in breach of any of the legislation above, and have no sectarian connotations, either through lyrical content or the event(s) the respective song is themed around. Ireland is a sovereign nation and as such enjoys the same rights as other sovereign nations. Within this there are rights to celebrate national identity and nationhood whether that is expressing an affection or love for a nation, or remembering those who died in order to secure a nations freedom or independence. This is a right afforded to any citizen and by extension, nation, not just around the Irish or Ireland. When we covered this area we looked at it from a commonly used definition of racism in the field of Equality which alludes to ‘to treat an individual or group less favourably based upon race, skin colour, nationality, ethnicity’ and we feel it is necessary to convey that racism is not merely the presence of hostility, it is also the denial of equality regarding skin colour, nationality, national origins, ethnicity etc and cultures therein.

When this is looked at then it is clear that to refer to legitimate Irish songs in unfavourable terms could be construed as racist if the same rules are not applied to songs and cultures pertaining to other nations. This is an area that we feel is important to refer to regarding the positions of both the stewards and the police who oversee crowd behaviours within professional football. Both parties have a difficult job in making stadia a safe and secure environment and we hope that this information will be beneficial in ensuring that neither party is subject to accusations of racism. This also has a relevance outwith the immediate vicinity of football matches, particularly those tasked with reporting on professional football.

Taking all of this into account we have listed songs that are Irish in nature, which stem from a pride in Irishness, or are themed around Irish patriots, it was around patriotic songs that most clarification was sought. Some of the songs referred to are known outwith traditional Irish circles. For example the song A nation once again featured in the Irish dancing show ‘Celtic Tiger’ which was seen by millions throughout the globe, as was the song ‘Four green fields’. Both A nation once again and Foggy Dew topped BBC radio polls in recent times and several of the songs have been top of and featured in the Irish music charts.

The accompanying pictures below illustrate the Irish Government endorsement and recognition as patriots of those who died during the Easter Rising and War of Independence in the former part of the 20th century. The British ambassador to Ireland has attended these commemorations in the recent past. The pictures mirror those of other nations, their political leaders, armed forces and citizens who annually commemorate those who have died for their respective nations fighting against persecution, fascism and tyranny.

Below is a list of Irish songs that from an Equality perspective do not infringe any of the outlined legislation.

Amhrán na bhFiann ( Irish national anthem )
Fields of Athenry
Irish soldier laddie
Irish soldier boy
Lonesome boatman
Boys of the old brigade
Merry Ploughboy
Broad black brimmer
Foggy Dew
Let the people sing
Meet me at the pillar
Bold Robert Emmet
Kevin Barry
James Connolly
Michael Collins
James Connolly’s ghost
Protestant men
Henry Joy
Dying rebel
A nation once again
God save Ireland
Patrick Pearse
Banna strand
Boys of Wexford
The valley of Knockanure
Wearing of the green
Only our rivers run free
Tri-coloured ribbon
Oro Se Do Bhatha Abhaile
Save a piece of this island for me
On the one road
Farewell to Dublin
Galtee Mountain boy
Flight of earls
This land is your land
No Irish need apply
Lough Sheelin eviction
Four green fields
Winds are singing freedom
Down by the glenside

We would also strongly recommend that the songs listed above are sung without any additions or interjections which would infringe the legislation above. We also want to stress that the songs listed are not a complete list of songs that do not breach any legislation. Owing to there being thousands of Irish songs it would be impossible to have a detailed list of all songs which are considered Irish and have both a theme and lyrical content to support such an assertion. If people have concerns around this then please contact us at contact@cici.org.uk and we will try to answer any queries in due course.

The reasons for the selected songs stems from the position that :

a ) Through research and dialogue on the matter we understand that these are Irish songs that many supporters have a familiarity with.

b ) As a result of that familiarity we would hope that supporters would give some consideration to introducing these songs instead of songs and expressions which breach any of the rules, regulations, law, Unacceptable Conduct etc.

c ) None of the songs listed above would, if the Unacceptable Conduct document is adhered to, be likely to have Celtic Football Club sanctioned in any way by any football authority, both in domestic football and under the jurisdiction of UEFA. Patriotic songs are heard frequently in UEFA governed matches, most notably at international level and to our knowledge this has never brought sanctions to any national association.

Closing summary

As an Equality body we would encourage supporters to eradicate all forms of intolerance within stadia and would remind fans that society is not suspended when people enter football stadia. Consequently criminal law is still applicable and we fully support the clubs and police in addressing ALL forms of racial and religious prejudice and discrimination. We would also emphasize that creating conditions whereby patriotic expression is permitted, tolerated and respected in sport and wider society with the exception of Irishness, or indeed any culture relating to nationhood, is not only racist, but is not conducive to a harmonious and egalitarian society in Scotland.

Although we do not envisage any changes in legislation we would encourage supporters to keep updated with the SPL Unacceptable Conduct, Celtic Football Clubs stadium regulations and Scottish law, all of which can be accessed online. Additionally we feel it would be beneficial for travelling supporters to view individual clubs stadium regulations prior to away fixtures.

The pictures below have been reproduced with the permission of the Irish Government, we would like to extend our gratitude for this.

For any media inquiries around this matter then please contact: contact@cici.org.uk

A Song for Celtic

By The Armchair Bandit

I watched the game on tv yesterday, looking on I thought the atmosphere looked immense and definitely one of the best away days the bhoys and ghirls have had in a few years. No doubt about it a few would have been inebriated but they were in fine voice for all 93 minutes of a turgid affair.

During the game,I was using the TAL twitter account and things got quite heated on there. A large number of Celtic fans making disparaging remarks about other Celtic fans, and their song choice. I’m not going to repeat the name calling on here but within minutes of the game finishing there were blogs up on Cybertims and The Celtic Network (TCN) website and both angered me. I then got embroiled in a twitter war with some of the detractors.

I have never been offended by Celtic fans singing pro-Republican songs, I’ve even been known to partake in a song or two myself over the years. I am fully aware of what I sing, I know not every Celtic fan shares the same views as me. I don’t expect them to. I also know that the songs I sing have been part of the history of our club for as long as I can remember. Many of them were probably sung before I was even born.

We have had a number of threads on the TAL forum over the years about songs that are sung in and around the stadiums. For the past few years my stance has always been the same; I will support the right of the Celtic support to sing whatever songs they like as long as these songs are not sectarian or racist.

Equally I have said before that there are songs we sing that could and should be left for Republican functions. I have also said we have a huge repertoire of Irish songs to sing that can celebrate our cultural identity. What I will not tolerate are internet bloggers who take the all high and mighty approach and try and become the thought police or the self-appointed collective conscience of the Celtic support.

I have read so-called supporters of our club ask ‘What has Sean South got to do with Celtic?’ I’d like to ask them what have Depeche Mode got to do with the hoops?

Peter Liewell is on record on numerous occasions over the years making it clear he doesn’t want these songs to be sung, he wont come out and directly say which ones, but we all know what he means. Peter, can’t chose when he wants the club to be Irish and when he doesn’t.

Some people say lets keep politics out of football. What were these same people saying when John Reid and Brian Wilson served on the Celtic board?

Paul Larkin wrote a decent blog on the subject, it was short but he summed it up well in one paragraph; “That said, I do not like drunken idiots singing about people who laid their lives down for Ireland. The parents and family of those volunteers do not deserve that. We have all seen them, we all know them and, let’s face it, most of us have been them.”

To their credit CyberTims have today also added an alternative opinion on the subject.

Let The People Sing!