Anti-Irish Racism is treated as Non-Issue

PDF of article in Irish PostThis article is from The Irish Post on 4th October 2008 by Phil on the continuing debate over ‘The Famine Song’ or moreso the issue of Anti-Irish Racism in Scotland.

Click on the image on the right to view the PDF of this article.

The text from the article is posted below.


“Over the past few weeks I have re-visited the decision that my wife and I took in 1995 in Glasgow to sell up and move to Donegal.  When we moved our son Cathal was four his sister Roisin was a baby and we just got news that number three was on the way!  It is normal to re-evaluate such a major life decisions, especially when it involves your children.  Events this year in Scotland have re-affirmed that the decision was the correct one.

 Since last April to supporters of Glasgow Rangers have had a new song.

To the tune of the “The sloop John B ” the song is aimed at Glasgow’s Irish

community who follow Celtic.

The song have five verses, here is the first one:

I often wonder where they would have been
If we hadn't have taken them in
Fed them and washed them
Thousands in Glasgow alone
From Ireland they came
Brought us nothing but trouble and shame
Well the famine is over
Why don't they go home?

The Scottish police have advised Rangers that anyone singing this song is in danger of being arrested for a  “racial breach of the peace.”

The Irish government’s consulate in Edinburgh was involved in seeking clarification from the Scottish government as to what they were doing about this racist karaoke after letters of complaint had been written to the Irish embassy in London.

So far the official response from the Scottish government has been muted.

When the story of the Irish governments involvement broke in Scotland journalist Ewen Cameron interviewed me on the Real Radio football phone-in about the Irish government’s involvement. I stated my own opinion that the song was racist as well as outlining how the story had developed.  In the days that followed that radio interview my own website ( was deluged with racist abuse from Rangers fans. Most of it was too vile to be approved for viewing.

Most of it, however, was simply ungrammatical.

The “famine Song” is only the most recent manifestation of Scotland’s oldest racism. Moreover it is tolerated by the leaders of Scottish society.

Although Rangers FC are currently subject of a probation order from UEFA for “discriminatory chanting” during European games the club will probably escape any sanction from the Scottish soccer authorities for these domestic outpourings of racism towards the Irish community in Scotland by a section of their supporters.

At the recent home game against Motherwell the Rangers football club distributed copies of a club statement to fans going into Ibrox stadium.

The statement warned the reader that the singing of the “famine song” could be lead to the singer being arrested.

The statement from Rangers did not condemn the song.

During the game the song was defiantly belted out by a large section of the crowd.

There were no reports of any arrests.

This all takes place against a background of official inaction by organisations in Scotland that are tasked and funded to tackle racism in soccer.

One such organisation is “Show Racism the Red Card”  (SRTRC) in Scotland has not publicly condemned the song despite SRTRC writing back to complainants in May that the song was, in the organisation’s opinion, racist. 

Piara Powar National Director of “Kick It Out”, an English based organisation, welcomed the intervention of the Irish government in the Famine Song controversy.

” This sort of government to government action is what we need because it takes it out of the hands of the football authorities. This is a matter of ethnic and national identity and it is appropriate that the Irish government should have become involved on behalf if its citizens.”

Matthew Collins, a journalist for the antifascist magazine Searchlight: “In my opinion, the song is racist as it is aimed at and about a particular section of society that has its own distinct language, ethnicity and cultural heritage. The song has a nasty, vile and intolerable content, rather like the morons who sing it.”

George Galloway MP, himself born in Dundee of Irish decent, was unequivocal about the famine Song when asked what should the Scottish football authorities do about this song being sung inside soccer stadia? “There should be a zero tolerance approach. Imagine if it was ‘the Holocaust is over…’ or ‘Slavery is over…’ There would rightly be an outraged reaction from the authorities. There should be now.”

The Scottish media have historically turned a blind eye to the anti-Irish racism that is all around them or they subsume it under the handy catchall term “sectarianism.” 

Despite the fact that Scots of Italians parentage have largely escaped the discrimination and abuse heaped onto the Irish for generations in Scotland. I can make a John McCain defence on behalf on my fellow journalists in Scotland.

It isn’t that they don’t care about anti-Irish racism in Scotland it’s just that they don’t get it.

On Monday 22nd in his column for the Daily Record Sports journalist and BBC broadcaster James Traynor dismissed the Famine song controversy thus.

“So, to all those, of any religion or race, who think Scotland is such a bad, twisted place full of bigots and racists there is only one thing to say.


Go on, just gather up your prejudices, take your suspicions and pack your loathing of Scotland.

Go find a better place to live and leave us to get on with the job of making something good of this country.”

That could not be clearer than if it had been screamed at you from the cheap seats in Ibrox Park.

Glasgow is the only major city in Britain to receive famine refugees that has no famine memorial. Coincidence?

The Famine is indeed over, although we continue to deal with the demographic and psychological aftermath here in Ireland and in the worldwide Diaspora.

Recently my son received his Junior cert results from his Gaeilscoil, a real milestone in our time here in Donegal.

In sean Dun Na nGall it is not a crime to be called Cathal. His sisters Roisin and Aislinn are in also in a culturally safe place.

I now know that I did come home and I am daily convinced that it was the correct move for my family and myself. However it is sad that, in a very fundamental way, the city of my birth will never be home to me while these vile racists enjoy official tolerance.”