Tag Archives: irish republican

Martin McGuinness R.I.P.

“The terrorist is always the one with the smaller bomb.”

– Brendan Behan

Today is not the day for long obituaries or to debate the pros and cons of the peace process, nor is it the time (as the British media have done all day long) to wheel out opponents of the IRA to dance on the memory of the leader of Irish nationalism.

TAL Fanzine has its views on all of the  political twists and turns that have taken place as a result of the eternal peace process. However, on this day, we send our sincere condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Martin McGuinness.

May he rest in peace.

The beauty of Celtic fans’ solidarity with Palestine

In just 24 hours Celtic supporters have raised more than £50,000 for humanitarian projects in Palestine. This was their response to the threat of a UEFA fine for the club as a result of their display of Palestinian flags at the Champions League play-off match against Be’er Sheva. A demonstration of their understanding of the issues and a display of international solidarity with the people of Palestine.

By John Wight

The worldwide response to the stance that thousands of Celtic fans took in solidarity with the Palestinians during their Champions League tie with Israeli side, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, leaves no doubt that in the second decade of the 21st century internationalism remains more powerful than any number of Apache helicopter gunships, cruise missiles, and tanks when it comes to shaping the world. For the Palestinian people, living in a de facto open prison in Gaza and under the longest military occupation in modern history in the West Bank, the sight of Celtic fans flying and waving a flag that means more to them than life itself will have made their hearts soar, reminding them they do not stand alone in defiance of an oppressor dedicated to their subjugation, cultural annihilation and despair.

While no one is suggesting that a free Palestine is just around the corner, the growth in international support for this righteous objective, with the spread and growth of the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, makes the status quo evermore untenable and unsustainable.

A people who find themselves living under occupation, subjected to a racist system of apartheid at the hands of a colonial power, can never be anything but politically aware. Under such conditions you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing, and neither does it take a PhD in politics or economics to gain an understanding of the world. Thus the struggle waged by generations of Irishmen and women against British colonialism entrenched the worldview and core values that underpin Irish republicanism. A key plank of those values is the unshakeable belief that standing on the side of justice in the matter of oppression is more than a choice it’s an obligation and a duty. When it comes to the Palestinians this takes on added force when we consider the solidarity they have shown towards the Irish struggle in the past.

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One of the most moving documents I have ever encountered in my political life was a letter written by Palestinian political prisoners in tribute to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers upon Sands’ death. The letter was smuggled out of the Nafha prison in the Negev desert, where they were incarcerated, and arrived in the Falls Road soon after.

It reads:

To the families of the martyrs oppressed by the British ruling class. To the families of Bobby Sands and his martyred comrades.

We, revolutionaries of the Palestinian people who are under the terrorist rule of Zionism, write you this letter from the desert prison of Nafha.

We extend our salutes and solidarity with you in the confrontation against the oppressive terrorist rule enforced upon the Irish people by the British ruling elite.

We salute the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his comrades, for they have sacrificed the most valuable possession of any human being. They gave their lives for freedom.

From here in Nafha prison, where savage snakes and desert sands penetrate our cells, from here under the yoke of Zionist occupation, we stand alongside you. From behind our cell bars, we support you, your people and your revolutionaries who have chosen to confront death.

Since the Zionist occupation, our people have been living under the worst conditions. Our militants who have chosen the road of liberty and chosen to defend our land, people and dignity, have been suffering for many years. In the prisons, we are confronting Zionist oppression and their systematic application of torture. Sunlight does not enter our cell. Basic necessities are not provided. Yet we confront the Zionist hangmen, the enemies of life.

Many of our militant comrades have been martyred under torture by the fascists allowing them to bleed to death. Others have been martyred because Israeli prison administrators do not provide needed medical care.

The noble and just hunger strike is not in vain. In our struggle against the occupation of our homeland, for freedom from the new Nazis, it stands as a clear symbol of the historical challenge against the terrorists. Our people in Palestine and in the Zionist prisons are struggling as your people are struggling against the British monopolies and we will both continue until victory.

On behalf of the prisoners of Nafha, we support your struggle and cause of freedom against English domination, against Zionism and against fascism in the world.

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On Wednesday August 17, 2016, thousands of Celtic supporters answered this message of solidarity from Palestinian political prisoners in 1981 with a message of their own. They did so in the face of UEFA threats of disciplinary action against the club and a hefty fine. Celtic FC and its fans should be proud to pay any such fine, viewing it not as punishment but as an investment in their humanity. As Malcolm X said, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.”

The world now knows that in an age of cynicism and indifference to suffering, Celtic supporters most assuredly do stand for something.

Follow John on Twitter @ JohnWight1

You can see more of his writing at Medium, RT, Sputnik, and Counterpunch.

To make a donation to the #matchthefineforpalestine appeal click here

’66 Days’ – Richard O’Rawe’s Review Of New Bobby Sands Movie

This article was first published on  by The Broken Elbow

Former IRA blanketman, H Blocks PRO and author of Blanketmen  & ‘After Lives’, Richard O’Rawe reviews the new film about Bobby Sands, ’66 Days’.

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Drama at the absolute rawest edge it could possibly be,’ was how journalist Fintan O’Toole described the IRA/INLA hunger strike in Brendan Byrne’s new film, Bobby Sands – Sixty-Six Days. No one who was around at that time could argue with him.

I went to the premiere of this film in West Belfast along with my wife, Bernadette. Accompanying us were Dixie Elliott and his wife, Sharon. Dixie, a former cell mate of Sands’, had been interviewed for the film but his contribution did not make the final cut.

Unsurprisingly, the cinema was packed with Sinn Féin members and supporters. Equally unsurprisingly, many of those present cast their eyes into the darkest reaches of the cinema rather than in my direction. The reason why? Because I wrote a book called Blanketmen in which I said that a committee of republicans, led by Gerry Adams, had control of the hunger strike. I also said that, before the fifth hunger striker Joe McDonnell died, this committee rejected an offer from the British government that the prison leadership believed to be acceptable. Consequently, six more hunger strikers died on the fast.

Richard O'Rawe - 'Was it (Sands' death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.'

Richard O’Rawe – ‘Was it (Sands’ death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.’

Notwithstanding the preponderance of Sinn Féin members in attendance at the premiere, this is far from a pro-Sinn Féin film. In fact, one viewer later said to me that he thought Byrne had gone ‘a bit too far’ by using Fintan O’Toole as linkman (O’Toole is not known for his Sinn Féin sympathies).

Byrne also afforded speaking rights to former prison officer, Dessie Butterworth, Tory Cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore. As well as that, he did not shirk from raising the despicable IRA murder of a young mother and census collector, Joanne Mathers, two days before the electorate of Fermanagh/South Tyrone went to the polls to elect either Bobby Sands or a Unionist as their M.P. To some of us prisoners, it seemed as if someone wanted to sabotage Sands’ chances of being elected.

I have to say, I found this film challenging. For example: Sands gave an interview to reporter Brendan O’Cathaoir of The Irish Times on the third day of his hunger strike.

Commenting on the interview, O’Cathaoir told Byrne: ‘He spoke fluently about how they felt compelled to start the hunger strike. And he made it pretty clear to me he was likely to die. He talked really in terms of laying down his life for his comrades, and of course I am conscious that his protest was in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi. His most memorial phrase before we parted was: “If I die, God will understand.”’

I later gave some thought to O’Cathaoir saying that Sands’ fast was ‘in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi’. Ghandi and Sands certainly had things in common: they shared the same imperial foe, they had a great love of their people, and they had iron will.

But unlike the pacifist Ghandi, Sands was committed to armed struggle and, while both revolutionaries may have used the tactic of hunger strike to achieve a political aim, they were altogether different entities.

Another thing that struck me was Fintan O’Toole saying that, ‘Ultimately Bobby Sands’ life effectively marks the end of the tradition of armed struggle because what he said is: There is no justification or need to kill people.’

This is simply not true. The Bobby Sands with whom I lived for three years on the blanket protest was committed to the armed struggle tradition; he never, during any of his talks with his fellow-prisoners, gave the impression that he viewed constitutional politics as a viable alternative to armed struggle: he was a committed IRA man, with all its attendant violence.

He died believing that his death would enhance the armed struggle, not diminish it.

Moreover, he had absolutely no idea that his death would lead to the peace process. If he had known, I doubt if he would have given his life so freely.

Despite Byrne’s attempt to strike a balance by giving anti-republicans a wide platform, this film is about a republican who died on hunger strike and his testimony. There is skilful use of animation, historical newsreels, and an excreta-covered, H-Block prison cell, complete with two men covered with blankets and lying on dirty mattresses on the floor.

A powerful rendition of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike diary from actor, Martin McCann leaves one with a feeling of utter helplessness, as does Mrs Sands being interviewed beside a van outside Long Kesh where she tells the world that her son is dying and, holding back her tears, appeals for no violence when he dies.

This is a film that people should go and view if for no other reason than that it has very coherent insights into Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, from both sides of the argument. It is also thought-provoking.

And always, at the back of my mind as I was watching this movie, is the question: Was it worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.

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James Connolly’s Last Statement, May 12th, 1916

ConnollyVigil9James Connolly’s Last Statement

Executed by a British Army firing squad,

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, May 12th, 1916

 

“Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.”


Given to his daughter Nora Connolly on eve of his murder by the British.

To the Field General Court Martial, held at Dublin Castle, on May 9th, 1916:

I do not wish to make any defence except against charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners. These trifling allegations that have been made, if they record facts that really happened deal only with the almost unavoidable incidents of a hurried uprising against long established authority, and nowhere show evidence of set purpose to wantonly injure unarmed persons.

We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. We believed that the call we then issued to the people of Ireland, was a nobler call, in a holier cause, than any call issued to them during this war, having any connection with the war. We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British Government has been asking them to die to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe.

Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.

I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be.

JAMES CONNOLLY,
Commandant-General, Dublin Division,
Army of the Irish Republic

 

Who Fears To Speak of Easter Week?

The Proclamation –  declared on this day 100 years ago by Padraic Pearse on the steps of the GPO, Dublin, 24th April, 1916 – was the fuse that ignited the Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland

Pearse 1916

POBLACHT NA hÉIREANN

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:

THOMAS J. CLARKE
SEAN Mac DIARMADA   THOMAS MacDONAGH
P. H. PEARSE   EAMONN CEANNT
JAMES CONNOLLY   JOSEPH PLUNKETT

1916leaders

 

Supporting Celtic: Class Consciousness & Political Identity

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Frank Devine is a graduate in Economic and Social History with Politics from the University of Strathclyde and a contributor to the ‘Celtic Minded’ books.  This blog is a transcript of Frank’s contribution to the series of History Talks organised by the Irish Heritage Foundation in Scotland.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity

By Frank Devine

Introduction

This presentation is not about Celtic players, managers, directors or coaches. The focus of this paper will be on the Celtic supporter, on ‘Celtic Fandom’; specifically, I want to examine the Celtic phenomenon in the West of Scotland, particularly within the clubs key supporting heartlands of Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity will examine the local and global dimensions of the Celtic support and, despite the long-standing hostility and antipathy towards the club from many within Scottish football; this stands in contradistinction to how Celtic and their fans are viewed externally out-with Scotland.

Part Two will examine “Celtic Culture and the West of Scotland” and the Celtic supporting fanbase in the clubs historic heartlands while also highlighting the clubs historical and contemporary relevance within the world wide Irish Diaspora.

Part Three will focus on the centrality of the “Match Day” experience to the Celtic support and will highlight why Celtic is more than 90 minutes on the field of play to their huge army of supporters.

Part Four will examine the “Social and Political Consciousness” of the support and what makes the Celtic fan base unique in Scottish and British football, arguing that the supporters unique political, cultural, religious and social dimensions are made unintelligible without a proper and appropriate acknowledgement of the ethnic and cultural roots of the clubs core supporting fan base in Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

The Celtic support, however, does not exist in a vacuum, and profound changes in the Scottish political dispensation have been fully reflected among the Celtic support; indeed, it might be convincingly argued that the support has been a key driver of some of these changes within the Scottish body politic at a popular cultural level.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity

Since 1887/1888 Celtic Football Club has been the sporting champions of the Irish Catholic working class community in the West of Scotland. Beyond being a ‘typical’ or ‘standard’ football club Celtic has an intrinsic political character which is evident in the social and cultural basis of its support in its historic heartland – which is the Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas of the West of Scotland. By the time of Europe’s second biggest football final held in 2003 in the Spanish city of Seville, Celtic’s support demonstrated its magnificence in the shape of a reported 80,000 (45,000 without tickets), travelling from all over the globe to Spain receiving the ‘Fair Play’ of the year awards from UEFA and FIFA for its outstanding behaviour as well as for creating a carnival around the event itself. In the words of FIFA, “For their exemplary fair and cordial conduct at the UEFA Cup Final in Seville”.

“Celtic Culture” and the West of Scotland

Celtic has a huge fan base throughout the Irish diaspora. However, the core of the support continues to reside in the West of Scotland, particularly in the Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas. Bradley in 1995 in his ground-breaking study “Religious and Ethnic Identity in Modern Scotland: Politics, Culture and Football”, highlighted that while there are hundreds of Celtic supporters clubs scattered throughout the Irish diaspora, as well as in Ireland itself, that there are 250 Celtic supporters clubs in Glasgow and another 125 Celtic supporters clubs in Lanarkshire comprised of between 20 and 100 members.

This is not surprising in that the club was formed specifically for this community. Glasgow Hibernian, Duntocher Hibernian, Mossend Celtic, Carfin Shamrock, Garngad Hibernian, Possilpark Celtic, Govan Harp, Whifflet Shamrock, Coatbridge Hibernian, Columba, Dumbarton Harp, Coatbridge Hibernian, Blantyre Celtic and many other clubs are likely to have been the original team of choice of many of the forefathers of the tens of thousands that today fill the various stands at Celtic Park in Glasgow. However, by the end of the nineteenth century the vast majority of the supporters of these clubs, and of the other Irish clubs that had been formed throughout the Irish immigrant communities in Scotland at that time, had begun to coalesce around ‘Glasgow’ Celtic, the most sturdy and successful of all of the clubs formed at that time.

Although it is now well over 100 years since the formation of Celtic the popular culture surrounding the club remains a primary manifestation of communal solidarity and identity among working class Irish descended Scots. Moreover, it is this culture that makes Celtic unique as a football club and as a social institution. It is a particular manifestation of Irishness among the world wide Irish diaspora and, as might be expected from a people deriving its heritage and origins from Irish history the support is marked by an anti-establishment ethos which is often viewed with hostility in Scotland.

StAndrewsCelticBrakeClubMatch Days

On the morning of ‘The Game’ supporters congregate in thousands of houses throughout Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Bank employees, the unemployed, social workers, bricklayers, teachers, production workers, insurance salespeople, shop workers, office workers, as well as a range of other occupations, come together under the one banner: a community is constituted. The vast majority of Celtic supporters, including those that sit in the expensive seats and the corporate boxes at Celtic Park, are working class or no more than one generation removed from a working class lifestyle. Indeed, given the reality of the Irish diasporic experience it would be fair to assert that the vast majority of Celtic supporters have never been to a Celtic match but connect with an emotional pull towards the ethnic dimension of the club.

Before and after matches Celtic supporters crowd into premises popularly viewed as Catholic, Irish or Celtic pubs throughout the West of Scotland. In fact one internet website – celticbars.com – suggests that there are over 1700 of these establishments world-wide in over 70 different countries which is an astonishing number of bars supporting one Scottish football club; however we all know that Celtic is much more, than simply a football club. In Glasgow licensed premises over the years that have attracted Celtic supporters include, Bairds Bar, Traders Tavern, Waxy’s Dargle, The WeeMans, Rosie O’Kane’s, The Sqirrel Bar, The Emerald Isle, The Hoops Bar, The Foggy Dew, Lynch’s/The Old Barns, Mulvey’s, The Tolbooth Bar, The Empire Bar/Costelloes, The Braemar Bar, The Caltonian, Mulvey’s and the Tolbooth Bar, most situated in and around the historic Celtic heartlands of Glasgow Cross, The Calton and The Gallowgate are packed with thousands of Celtic supporters, many of whom have made the pilgrimage from Ireland and further afield as well as from other parts of Scotland. These bars are instantly recognisable to anyone who walks through the Gallowgate district of Glasgow’s East End as well as a number of other places. Some have the Irish tricolour flying from the premises and some are pained in the green of Celtic and Ireland.

The same is true of licensed premises in other parts of Glasgow, for example in The Gorbals, Govan, Govanhill, Blackhill and ‘The Garngad’ as well as in other parts of the greater Glasgow area including Clydebank, Paisley, Greenock, Dumbarton and Port Glasgow and indeed, any number of other areas. In Lanarkshire Celtic supporters have in the past, or continue to congregate in, a huge number of clubs, pubs and bars long viewed as Celtic bars. These include – or included in previous years – such premises as the Commercial Bar – now the Priory Bar – and Finbars – now John Carrigans – and Mick Flynn’s in Blantyre, The Clock Bar and The Big Tree in Coatbridge, Franklyn’s Bar, McCormick’s Bar and Saints and Sinners in Bellshill, Tully’s Bar and the Railway Tavern in Motherwell. Other Celtic supporters will meet up in – or used to meet up in – Kelly’s Bar in Cleland, The Big Shop in Glenboig, the Era Bar and the King Lud in Craignuek, Doherty’s, the Auld Hoose and Hemingways Bar in Hamilton. Carrigan’s, The Hibernian Club, Carfin Vaults and McAuley’s bar in the Celtic stronghold of Carfin, as well as dozens of other pubs and clubs throughout the ‘heartlands’ are packed with supporters. Therefore and this is the important part, the ‘Celtic Culture’ goes well beyond the confines of Celtic Park and into the homes and communities of its historic support. Indeed, one can imagine this community also coming together in bars in Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Toronto and a hundred other places dotted throughout the world. Celtic lives beyond the ‘Fever Pitch’ atmosphere of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or a Wednesday evening.

Some of the bars frequented by supporters often have a Glasgow/West of Scotland based Irish ‘ballad’ band playing before supporters depart for the match – while other bars will have bands booked for after the match. Bands such as ‘The Blarney Pilgrims’, ‘Foggy Dew’, ‘Celtic Connection’, ‘Athenrye’, ‘The Shamrock Rebels’, ‘Galtimore’, Charlie and the Bhoys’, ‘The Wakes’, and ‘Shebeen’, as well as solo artistes like Patricia Ferns, Gary Og, Paddy Bonnar and Gerry McGregor are all well known in this culture that makes Celtic absolutely unique in Scottish and British football. Ballad Bands from Ireland, such as the ‘Wolfe Tones’, the ‘Young Wolfe Tones’ – sometimes referred to as the ‘Continuity Wolfe Tones’ – Spirit of Freedom, The Irish Brigade and Tuam are regular visitors to Glasgow and the West of Scotland and these bands are hugely popular amongst the support and they are regular fixtures at Celtic supporters social events, annual dances and ‘player of the year’ events.

These bands perform songs and ballads that have been sung by Celtic supporters for generations; songs such as ‘The Celtic Song’, ‘The Coronation Cup Song’, ‘The Ballad of Johnny Thompson’ and ‘The Willie Maley Song’. The bands also perform a wide range of tunes and ballads relating to the historical and contemporary political situation in Ireland. ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’, ‘Kevin Barry’, ‘Let The People Sing’, ‘The Foggy Dew’, ‘The Merry Ploughboy’, ‘The Broad Black Brimmer of the IRA’ and ‘Sean South of Garryowen’. These are all hugely popular ballads that are synonymous with the Celtic support. Songs such as Sean South of Garryowen has been popular amongst the Celtic support since the 1960’s while the Boys of the Old Brigade has been sung at Celtic Park since the 1970’s.

StAugustinesLangloanCoatbridgeJimmyQuinnBannerBut this rich tradition of folk song goes back much further than the 1960’s. In fact this community singing of Irish songs and ballads has always been a defining characteristic of the Celtic support. The Man In The Know, a highly sympathetic and 100% partisan commentator for the Irish Catholic community newspaper of that time in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, The Glasgow Observer – which had 26 local editions in Scotland – commented in the 1920’s of the Celtic support assembled for a match at Ibrox Stadium that:

“The Celtic brake-clubs (supporters’ clubs) members are reasonable sentient human beings, are models of decorum and possess official testimonials to their blameless behaviour…The Celtic supporters are fond of singing and to this no one could reasonably object. On Saturday the boys sang to their hearts content. They gave us so many rousing choruses; Hail Glorious Saint Patrick, God save Ireland, Slievenamon, the Dear Little Shamrock, and the Soldiers Song. “…. When Cassidy’s goal made victory sure, it was fine to hear the massed thousands at the western end of the Ibrox oval chanting thunderously “On Erin’s Green Valleys’..”

The Man in the Know was far less complimentary about a now defunct football clubs’ supporters from the south side of Glasgow.

“On the Dalmarnock terracing on Saturday there was congregated a gang, thousands strong, including the dregs and scourings of filthy slumdom, unwashed yahoos, jailbirds nighthawks, won’t works, burro-barnacles and pavement pirates, all, or nearly all, in the scarecrow stage of verminous trampdom. This ragged army of insanitary pests was lavishly provided with orange and blue remnants…. Practically without cessation, the vagabond scum kept up a strident howl of the “Boyne Water” chorus. Nothing so bestially ignorant has ever been witnessed, even in the wildest exhibitions of Glasgow Orange bigotry……”

Before games much of the support board coaches organised by hundreds of Celtic supporters clubs. Originally known as ‘Brake Clubs’, they were previously organised throughout the catholic parishes of the West of Scotland. The Catholic parish has traditionally provided the basis for the evolution of many Celtic supporters clubs in the West of Scotland and further afield. The “Garthamlock Emerald”, “Mossend Emerald”, “Commercial Bar No 1 Blantyre”, “Claddagh Blantyre”, “Bothwell Emerald”, “Bellshill and District”, “Bellshill Brigada”, “Starry Plough”, “Son of Donegal”, “East Kilbride Athenry”, “Tom Williams Port Glasgow”, “St Brendan’s Linwood”, “Easterhouse Emerald”, “Garngad Celtic”, “Linnvale Shamrock”, “Notre Dame Motherwell”, “Nine In A Row Motherwell”, “Che Guevara Kirkmichael”, “Whifflet Saint Mary’s”, “Phil Cole Coatbridge”, “Chapelhall Shamrock”, and “Saint Mungo’s Shamrock” amongst them (although supporters clubs coaches have come under considerable pressure in recent years with increasing numbers of supporters opting for private transport to matches).

The communal singing and playing of recorded songs in licensed premises, the coaches of supporters clubs – the Celtic supporters club coach was often the vehicle – pun intended – whereby many young Celtic supporters became socialised into the ‘Celtic culture’ and educated into the songs and ballads of Celtic and Ireland – and in private transport, comes to a crescendo as thousands of supporters from Scotland, and from Ireland, England and beyond fill the stands of Celtic Park. It’s my central argument that supporting Celtic Football Club generates an enormous wave of communal solidarity among the fans, and indeed, that it is this ‘feeling’ of community that assures Celtic FC of the ‘passion of a people’.

Social and Political Consciousness

Given the cultivated evolution of a social conscience within Catholic education in Scotland, the Irish national origins of most of the Celtic support as well as their history of economic, social, religious and political marginalisation that has characterised much of the experience of the Irish in Scotland up until very recently, it is unsurprising that Celtic fans have long identified with Irish nationalism as well as working class and radical issues and causes.

The Celtic support (as well as many of the club’s officials and playing staff), were vocal, not only in their opposition to the detention of Irish political prisoners in the 1890’s but also to Britain’s involvement in the Boer War in the 1900’s. Celtic supporters, officials and playing staff also actively supported the Catholic petition for Catholic schools in the early twentieth century. In 1926 Celtic supporters barracked an opposing player who reputedly ‘scabbed’ on striking railway workers during the General Strike of that year. It is consistent with a Christian and Catholic ethos, as well as a left wing and socialist ethos, a view shaped by a concern for others, that the flags of the Basque Country and Palestine (people also perceived as being ‘oppressed’, are occasionally seen being flown by Celtic supporters on match days. The political and social consciousness of this support has been characteristic of the club since its very foundation. “Rebellion’, arguably, is part of the DNA of the Celtic support.

FRONT - TAL 36-mediumThe politics of the Celtic support is one of the things that make Celtic supporters distinctive in Scotland. In a wide ranging study into the attitudes of football supporters in Scotland in the early 1990’s one writer recorded an eighty-five per cent approval rating for the Labour Party among Celtic supporters. We can address the contemporary transformation in Celtic supporters voting attitudes in a moment. In 2001 up to 10,000 people – in the biggest pro-Irish demonstration in Scotland since the 1930’s – most, if not all of them Celtic supporters – attended a demonstration in Glasgow to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Irish Hunger Strikes of 1980-1981. Similar huge numbers were brought on to the streets of Glasgow for the 30th Anniversary of the Hunger Strikes in 2011. To this very day the environs of Celtic Park on match day are a definite no go area for right wing, racist and fascist groups and Celtic supporters have been to the forefront of numerous attempts to combat the street presence of these groups in Glasgow and Lanarkshire in particular over the past 20-30 years. The anti- fascist and pro Irish republican TAL Fanzine has been distributed among Celtic supporters for decades and remains popular among a militant left wing cohort among the Celtic fan base. Of course, on the negative side there remain Celtic supporters who are ‘sectarian’ just as there are black people who are ‘racist’ whether in Africa, the USA or indeed, any of the countries that make up the UK or in Ireland itself. Racist and sectarian Celtic supporters would find no tolerance from this platform. Just witness those Celtic supporters who corrupt the meaning of Celtic and Irish songs by interjecting abusive or swear words or throwing in rhyming chants that completely distorts what the song or ballad is attempting to convey. It’s my view that the vast majority, as well as the core Celtic support, has always rejected such views.

Even apart from their national origins and cultural and religious make up, it might be appropriate to consider Celtic supporters as constituting an ethnic bloc considering their largely similar views on a range of pertinent political, social, cultural and religious views. This ‘culture of Celtic’ brings together many different people who share in the Irish and working class nature of the club and its traditions.

Contemporary Considerations

republicans-for-indyScotland, particularly Glasgow and the West of Scotland, which is the primary focus of this presentation, has underwent fundamental political, social, cultural and generational change over the past 12 months. Constituencies where the vote for the Labour Party could have been weighed rather than counted have fallen to a re-invigorated Scottish National Party (SNP), which was decisively defeated by a margin of 55 per cent to 45 percent in the Scottish Independence Referendum last year. However, in that vote in September, many of the strongholds of the Labour Party, where the ‘hard core’ Irish descended Catholic, Celtic supporting vote decisively opted for the Independence option, was followed in May by every single Labour Party seat in Glasgow and the West of Scotland being wiped off the face of the political map in the biggest transformation in Scottish politics in decades. This transformation is also fully reflected throughout ‘Celtic/Irish in Scotland’ cyberspace in a huge shift away from the Labour Party and a huge shift towards the SNP and Scottish independence (this despite many of those who opted for the independence option and the SNP vehemently denying that they are nationalists). I spoke to a Scottish Catholic educationalist about this, a man who holds a senior position within one of the biggest Catholic high schools in Glasgow. He claimed – rather vigorously, it must be said – that he no longer supported Celtic and that the Celtic support, particularly the younger element organised around the Green Brigade and other left wing elements of the support, had been ‘indoctrinated by university educated 40 and 50 year old Trotskyist entryists’ who were writing Green Brigade and other ‘Ultra’ Celtic supporters groups statements for them and who were hell bent on destroying the Celtic fan base in the same way that the Militant Tendency had attempted to take over the Labour Party in the early 1980’s. He also claimed that 30 and 40 year old drug taking, alcohol swigging, working class and unemployed ‘don’t give a fuck’ especially male, ‘rebel inclined’ and ‘cultural Catholics’ were the backbone of the SNP vote. It was one of the most disparaging and patronising attacks on working class Catholics that I have ever been exposed to. In reply I expressed the view that I felt his analysis of the Scottish-Irish working class was grossly simplistic and that there was no labelling of an entire working class community in such a manner when they were still supporting the Scottish Labour Party. I said we would need to agree to differ and offered my hand in friendship which was refused because, “You said my analysis was simplistic.”  The conversation was left there.

Conclusion:

The core Celtic support has an attachment to the club that has political, cultural, ethnic and religious dimensions. In a popular study of the Irish in Scotland in 2003 Burrowes describes what Celtic means to tens of thousands of people and provides a perceptive insight into the culture and ethos of the community that has built and sustained Celtic:

Celtic FC is their greatest triumph and is about showing what a deprived and impoverished community in a new country could, with determination accomplish..

Celtic is a special football club and their supporters constitute a unique, atypical and relatively cohesive component of West of Scotland society. The club is the sporting champion of the Scottish-born Irish descended working class. Since its formation in 1887/1888, Celtic has functioned as repository of cultural, political and ethnic identity for the Irish in Scotland.

NoSheepAtHampden

We must stand with the people of Greece…

Late last night I was thinking about Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis. It was triggered by watching them on TV working the rooms they were in, separately.

I thought, what strength of character it must require to repeatedly go into a room alone and to know you will be faced by a bunch of people, not one of whom is on your side. Imagine that, day after day, the pressure from antagonistic opponents, and outside the room the pressure from antagonistic media.

I thought, how extraordinary it is that both were able to present a good-humoured face inside and outside the room.

I thought, there is something going on with them, between them. They aren’t going in there to surrender. There is a game-plan, and none of the antagonists are capable of guessing what it is.

I thought of their election, and the promises made, and I thought of the pressure that must bring – to know there are millions of your own people back home that you have to try to represent, and that you have to try not to sell down the river, and all of that in the face of insults, of patronising behaviour, of being treated as inferiors..

With the news tonight that a referendum is planned within days on the terms being offered… no, not offered, but demanded under duress… that game-plan is revealed.

Democracy. Created in Greece in the first place, now to be practiced as a rebuff to the most anti-democratic imperialist entity in the world today, and to allow the Greek people deliver their judgement.
I hope wise council prevails, and that the people send a message to those bullies in those rooms.

I envy the Greeks having ethical people of character to represent them.

In that respect Greece stands alone in Europe.

We must stand with them.