Tag Archives: Sinn Fein

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.

’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.

66Days

Defending The Indefensible – Sinn Fein Meets Likud

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Sinn Fein is defending its decision to meet ‘under the radar’ with the political representatives of the right-wing Likud Party, the party of government in Israel, the facilitators of illegal settlements in the West Bank  and the architects of the destruction of Gaza.  By meeting with Likud, Sinn Fein has in effect broken the international campaign of the BDS movement, which calls for a boycott of Israeli government,  economic and cultural institutions.

That Sinn Fein can try to re-spin this betrayal as ‘critical engagement’ with the Israeli regime demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the principles of ‘solidarity’.

What is it that the Shinners do not understand about the principles of the ‪#‎BDS‬ campaign? Here, in the words of the BDS Movement website, are its stated aims:

WHAT IS BDS?

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.

Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Eleven years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

Ongoing injustice

For nearly seventy years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law.

Israel maintains a regime of of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people. This is only possible because of international support. Governments fail to hold Israel to account, while corporations and institutions across the world help Israel to oppress Palestinians.

Because those in power refuse to act to stop this injustice, Palestinian civil society has called for a global citizens’ response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – it’s self-explanatory and it is the campaign that is supported and promoted internationally by the Palestinian liberation movement. Sinn Fein didn’t get an exemption to engage in talks with Netanyahu’s Likud party so their claims that they are working in solidarity with the Palestinians are disingenuous.

It’s apparent that Sinn Fein is a political party that is completely self-absorbed and which operates only in its own self-interest. It has continually used the so-called ‘peace process’ as a means of closing down political debate in the north of Ireland and as a means of enhancing its own inflated view of itself as an arbiter of peace in other conflicts.

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In reality, Sinn Fein’s leadership have chosen a ‘side’; they’ve chosen the side of neo-liberalism against progressive liberation movements around the world. As if to prove their reliability and usefulness to the imperialist/colonialist powers their spokespeople and party apparatchiks tour the world’s hotspots preaching the gospel of ‘peace without liberation’ to the struggles of the Basques, the Colombians, the Tamils and the Palestinians, absurdly suggesting that they have a ‘one-size fits all’ solution to the complex problems of national and social liberation.

When Sinn Fein  leaders refer to ‘conflict resolution’ it is code for the counter revolution that the party has presided over for the last two decades.  It is the export of the counter revolutionary Trojan Horse of ‘conflict resolution’ that Sinn Fein is trying to sell to its former international partners in the liberation movements.

That they put their own self-interestand the potential of economic contracts for the devolved ‘NornIron’ Assembly with the Israeli government and Israeli companiesbefore the liberation of the Palestinian people is an indication of just how low this party has now stooped and how much it has moved away from the struggle for genuine social, economic and national liberation.

Meanwhile the Palestinian political prisoner Bilal Kayed is on the 56th day of his hunger strike…

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BREAKING NEWS: First Minister & Deputy First Minister’s Statement on the EUros Situation

Arlene-Foster-Martin-McGuinness

A Jointly Separate Statement on The French Situation by the First Minister/Deputy First Minister of NornIron/Northo’Iron

We, the undersigned as First Minister/Deputy First Minister of NornIron/Northo’Iron, have had our attentions drawn to a situation that has developed over in that there Franceland during the EUro Championships that are on over there the now, so’s they are.

As your First Minister/Deputy First Minister of NornIron/Northo’Iron, we are firmly of the opinion that this situation must not be allowed to develop into a further situation that might lead to an unnecessary situation that could well end in a tragic situation.

With that situation in mind, we are calling for the fans of NornIron/Northo’Iron and RaRepublicayIron to remain calm and not to respond to this situation no matter the Proviecation and circumstance of said situation. We call on the people of NornIron/Northo’Iron and RaRepublicayIron to stay focused on the peace process situation and not to allow the hooligan situation to deflect from a situation that might upset the balance of our commitment to the precarious situation in NornIron/Northo’Iron.

We were heartened to see the situation where the peoples of these islands were able to bring about a peaceful situation, indeed, a united situation, where they sang in a situation of harmonious drunkenness those great songs of peace and brotherhood – ‘Ten German Situations’ and ‘God Save Our Situation’ – in a manner that is fitting in such a situation as that of the serious situation in Frenchland right the now, so’s it is. We commend the fans of NornIron/Northo’Iron and indeed RaRepublicayIron for the tremendous restraint that they have demonstrated in this situation.

Now away over there and behave yersels and please do not create a situation where Marty might have tae intervene in this situation.

No Surrender/Tiocfaidh Ár Lá

Vote Out/Vote In

Arlene & Marty

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

 

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

The people of the Middle East need solidarity not pity…

turkish-soldiers-syrian-refugees-border

By Hal

The solution to the crisis in the Middle East today is not more European involvement but less. The ‘We must do something’ mentality says Europe must be proactive in taking sides in Middle Eastern conflicts on behalf of causes identified as progressive. For example against Assad and in support of the Palestinians against Israel. But this is wrong. Western involvement in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere has exacerbated and prolonged regional conflicts. The longer Western political activists meddle in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the less likely an enduring political solution will be found. A solution can only be found by the adversaries themselves free of outside interference. Playing to an outside audience prolongs local conflicts.

United-Nations-Libya-VoteCompassion is not the equivalent of solidarity. The politics of pity exhibited by Western educated Muslim youth cum jihadi converts is emulated by handwringing liberal do-gooders demanding something must be done to alleviate suffering in the Middle East. The actions of both jihadi converts and liberal interventionists have had destructive consequences. Jihadists joining Isis are no more dangerous or pernicious than the humanitarian interventionists and their quasi-religious zeal to rid the world of bad guys.

Traditionally the vast majority of politically minded Celtic fans and FFAA1supporters of Irish freedom were also committed advocates of the Palestinian cause. But things have changed in the Middle East just as surely as they have changed in Ireland. In the 70’s and 80’s when the PLO and its offshoots were fighting against Israel and its Western backers as part of a wider anti-imperialist struggle expressing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination was a progressive step. The West used Israel as a proxy in pursuing its interests in the Middle East in the context of the Cold War and against Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran.

Today it seems that America and the West no longer know where its interests lie in the Middle East. Western meddling has made matters worse. The Middle East is unravelling before the eyes of the West and Western governments are powerless to stop it. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are bombing Yemen into the Dark Ages to prevent the Shia Houthi’s taking power. UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed declared that “we will press ahead until we purge Yemen of the scum”. Despotism is alive and kicking. However, it is not our responsibility to take sides in the internecine warfare between Shia and Sunnis. Patrick Cockburn in his book ‘Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution’ traces the involvement of the Western backed oil rich Gulf States in the formation of Isis and the sponsorship of Sunni terrorism across the Middle East.

In this wider context the best thing anti-imperialists and progressives can do is to adopt a position of non-interference or the principle of ‘Do No Harm’.

The Palestinian liberation movement no longer exists. The cynical Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has not been a good servant of its people. The Palestinians need to break free from the straitjacket of perpetual victimhood. Similarly Israelis’ defensiveness and sense of victimhood does them no favours. It is a zero sum game. In Ireland Sinn Fein always refused to engage in what Martin McGuinness called ‘whatabouttery’ or ‘the politics of the last atrocity’. Focusing on alleged war crimes either by Israel or Hamas doesn’t contribute to breaking the cycle of violence. During the war in Ireland demands for Sinn Fein to condemn the latest IRA bombing didn’t move the situation forward. Similarly demands for reparations at The Treaty of Versailles crippled the new democratic German government in the Weimar Republic and created a legacy of bitterness which contributed to the rise of fascism. History tells us you reap what you sow.

liberalswelcomeWe should be aware of promoting a politics that feeds into a system of retribution. That is not to say you should not express your support for justice or freedom for the Palestinians or any other oppressed group. But it is equally important to recognise what has changed in the world today. There is a correlation between Western born or home grown Islamic fundamentalists and their eagerness to fight in foreign wars and self-styled Western liberals and humanitarian interventionists eager to ‘do something’ and topple foreign tyrants. The laptop bombardiers have a lot to answer for. The refugee crisis spilling out of the Middle East and North Africa is in large part a consequence of the destabilisation of the entire region brought about by the Western invasion of Iraq.

IS-FlagSunni militants are a local response to Shia expansionism in Iraq and Syria and now Yemen. Western intervention in the Middle East has exacerbated the bloody conflict between Shia and Sunni. It is an old slogan but it is one that is worth repeating: Hands Off the Middle East! Only today this message needs to be aimed not at old fashioned Western imperialists but at the new crusaders for global justice, the interfering moral authoritarians who arrogantly believe it is within their power to change the world for the better by invading and bombing foreign countries and deposing their governments.

Twitter: @michael_hal

CarolineLucasMP