By Phil Mac Giolla Bhain.
Members of Show Racism the Red Card were taken to task by a tetchy Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell at New Douglas Park after the match between Hamilton Accies and Celtic on Sunday 25th October.
Show Racism The Red Card workers Tommy Breslin and Elio Ajmone were introduced to the Celtic CEO by local MSP Michael McMahon.
The Peter Lawwell then asked the SRTRC men what their organisation was going to do about the singing of the Famine song by Rangers fans and the taunting of Celtic’s Irish players.
Lawwell’s tone became tetchy to say the least as he explained the pain and offence caused by the Famine Song and the abuse of Celtic’s Irish players by the fans of other clubs in Scotland.
Sources who were in the room at New Douglas Park said that the charity workers were taken aback by the vehemence of the Celtic CEO.
Michael McMahon MSP who was there confirmed the details of conversation that had taken place at New Douglas Park, as did SRTRC worker Elio Ajomne.
Earlier in the afternoon the Bellshill MSP and leading member of the Irish community in Scotland ,who was at New Douglas Park as a guest of SRTRC, asked the charity workers if they had attended the match at Ibrox the following day between Rangers and Hibs? They said that they had.
When asked by McMahon had they heard the Famine song being sung by Rangers supporters after Irishman Anthony Stokes had scored for Hibernian they said they didn’t hear the controversial song.
Michael McMahon expressed surprise at this as he had been contacted by constituents complaining as they heard the racist song while watching the game on TV.
Elio Ajmone is originally from Turin in Italy and has a background in the UK of working with asylum seekers.
He has been recently appointed to work for SRTRC after the charity received extra funding from the Scottish government.
He told me “this is only my eighth week in post. My job is to create a new strand in Show Racism The Red Card’s work is combating sectarian prejudice.”
When asked to characterise the taunting of Irish player Aidan McGeady Elio stated:
“This is a racist issue.” When put to him that the taunting and abuse aimed at Aiden McGeady for playing for the Republic of Ireland was viewed by the Irish community as a manifestation of anti-Irish racism Elio replied:
No, that is a fair comment.”
SRTRC national director Ged Grebby defended his organisation’s work in Scotland by first pointing out that the charity receives no money from Scottish football.
On the racist abuse of Aidan McGeady he said:
“We have spoken out on the racist abuse that Aidan McGeady receives from football fans. Tommy Breslin, for example, gave a statement to the Paisley Daily Express on March 3rd 2008 after Aidan was racially abused by St. Mirren fans.”
Grebby also said:
“We are aware that Anti-Irish racism is being used by Rangers supporters in a sectarian manner. We are planning a campaign called ‘Show Bigotry The Red Card!’ We have written to Aidan McGeady to take part we hope that he will.”
Michael McMahon said later:
“The problem I have always had with the anti-sectarianism campaign of successive Scottish administrations has been the lack of clarity about the difference between sectarianism and racism. It is an easy get out for the Government, the football authorities and anti-racist organisations like Show Racism the Red Card to label the Famine Song as sectarian abuse and treat it as just another manifestation of religious division rather than deal with it for what it is.
The chant has already been identified in the Scottish Courts as racist but it would seem that to deal with it as such presents too much of a challenge for the authorities who find it much easier to see issues between Celtic and Rangers are two sides of the same coin. They are not. Each club has its own problems with its fans but this particular problem is one or anti-Irish racism and has to be dealt with for what it is.”
Neither Peter Lawwell nor Celtic Fc were prepared to make any comment on the matter.