Famine Song Question in Dail Eireann

By Phil Mac Giolla Bhain

Irish politician Alan Shatter TD has submitted a Dail question to Foreign Minister Micheal Martin about the Famine Song controversy in Scotland.

I spoke with Deputy Shatter last week and he confirmed to me that he had acted after a constituent had contacted him.

“I am urging Minister Martin to directly contact Alex Salmond, the Scottish First minister in Edinburgh, to deal with the racist chanting of the “Famine Song” by Rangers supporters at soccer matches in Scotland,” said Deputy Shatter  ”Rangers supporters should get behind their world famous team and move on from the hatred of the past. I also hope that the club itself will deal with the supporters who will not desist from singing this racist song.”

In a separate development the organisation “Show Racism the Red Card” (SRTRC) has called upon supporters of all clubs to refrain from singing songs and participating in behaviour that contravenes
footballing regulations as outlined by FIFA, UEFA and the SPL and that may result in possible prosecution from the police. In a statement on the SRTRC website specifically referred to the “The Famine Song”. The statement from SRTRC was very similar to that of the Rangers FC in that it warned Rangers supporters singing this song that they may be liable to arrest for a “racial breach of the peace..” The statement from SRTRC, like the one from Rangers, did not condemn the “Famine Song” as racist. This first statement from SRTRC had coincided with the publication of the Irish Post’s first piece on the Famine song controversy, which highlighted SRTRC’s lack of action on this issue.

That was SRTRC’s stated position at close of business on Friday 3rd October.  By Monday 6th October midday they had changed the text of this section on their website to include the statement.

“We refer to “The Famine Song” which is being sung by sections of the Rangers support. We are of the opinion that this song is racist. Both Rangers Football Club and Strathclyde Police have stated that anyone singing this song risked being arrested. UEFA guidelines stipulate that “racial abuse” or “discrimination” is not confined to skin colour. It can also be reflected in abuse for being foreign or from
an ethnic minority background.”

To the innocent reader it would appear that, as of October 1st, SRTRC  publicly considered the “Famine song” to be racist when this was not the case.

This journalist was unable to solicit any direct quote from the organisation despite speaking to two members of staff at SRTRC on several attempts. My request for SRTRC coordinator Billy Singh to get
back to me and speak for the organisation did not happen.

Alasdair Allan the Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (western Isles) stated that:

“The sentiments in this song are unquestionably anti-Irish and racist. The overwhelming majority of people here would say that there is no room in Scotland for this song. This song is so sad on a number
of levels. If people only knew their history they would know that the potato blight was such a terrible disaster and led to death and devastation in both Ireland and Scotland.”

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