MacAskill responds to Irish community.

I have been authorised to release the following correspondence between the Irish Community in Scotland and Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.

This email was sent by the IRISH DIASPORA IN SCOTLAND ASSOCIATION (National Umbrella of Irish Societies) to the SNP HQ on friday, 25 March, 2011 6:38:22 PM

Subject: FW: Letter to the Scottish Establishment on Anti Irish Racism/Catholicism !
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 15:42:04
Dear Sir/Madam,
May we bring to your attention the comments made by Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police Campbell Corrigan following the Celtic vs Rangers Cup Final on the 20th March 2011.
“The players, management and fans contributed to a memorable occasion, and I urge that their positive example inside the ground is replicated outside it over the course of the evening and beyond.” Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill
“I think the atmosphere at the ground was excellent and the match was a great advert for our football. I hope that this atmosphere is replicated across the force and that we see a drop in the levels of alcohol-related violence that blights so many communities .” Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan
In the lead up to the aforementioned match we had been led to believe following the high profile summit involving the First Minister and Government Representatives, Strathclyde Police, Celtic F.C. and Rangers F.C. that a zero tolerance approach to bigotry, racism and sectarianism would be implemented.
The Cup Final of 20/03/2011 saw tens of thousands of Football supporters indulge in vicious discriminatory chants expressing anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiments in the form of songs outlawed by Europe’s governing football body UEFA and recognised as both racist and sectarian in Scots Law: the songs in question being ‘The Billys Boys’ ‘The Famine Song’ and ‘No Pope of Rome’.
These songs call on British citizens of an ethnic Irish background to return to their country of ethnic origin while expressing an intolerance of around 17% of the country’s population who follow the Catholic faith from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds beyond the Irish, including Scots, English, Polish, Italian, Indian, Nigerian, Sri Lankan to name a few. These communities, along with Scotland’s largest ethnic minority group the Irish diaspora, have helped build and develop the infrastructure of the country and should feel comfortable to play a part as full citizens while maintaining and celebrating their ethnic heritage.
It is noteworthy that previous Scottish Governments have addressed this issue only within a distorted ‘sectarian’ framework, while they continue to miss the fact that much of the noted behaviour and attitudes amount to discrimination against one particular ethnic and faith community. It is time that the government and relevant stakeholders start tackling the real problem within the discrimination legislative framework and move beyond the constructed narrative, as the problem goes deeper than popular superficial understandings of so called sectarianism.
It is with regret that in Scotland in 2011 songs which expose both anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment are expressed with impunity within such a high profile showcase event screened around the football world. Of the 51,181 attendees at Sunday’s game we are told that the zero tolerance policy towards religious prejudice and racial abuse yielded 2 arrests: 0.0039% of the capacity crowd. The comments attributed to our Justice Minister and Assistant Chief Constable are incomprehensible within the context of the reported ‘positive’ nature of the atmosphere and behavior of supporters.
Scotland ’s Irish community recognises fully our responsibility to celebrate cultural diversity and promote active citizenship. We look to interact with people from all backgrounds in cultural initiatives expressing both our Irish heritage, promoting cultural diversity and submitting fully to the idea of ‘One Scotland Many Cultures’ Indeed, this was reflected in the positive nature of cross party support expressed by MSP’s led by the SNP and supported by Scottish Labour and Conservative colleagues respectively at the members debate held on 12/01/2011 in the Scottish Parliament. At this event all parties roundly praised the work of Scotland’s Irish community and its importance in the dynamic of Scotland.
It is with concern we highlight the continual inaction of Government, NGO’s and the Scottish football authorities to address the overwhelming issue of anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism in the Scottish sporting arena which has contributed to undermine the Irish community as active citizens. We recognise the need for positive dialogue to address these problems and look forward to engaging with the relevant bodies in the near future.
We call on the future Government, the European Human Rights Commission, the Police, the voluntary and education sectors and all relevant stakeholders to start looking into existing as well as new methods and initiatives which can be deployed to address these problems.
Is mise le meas (with respect)
IRISH DIASPORA IN SCOTLAND ASSOCIATION (National Umbrella of Irish Societies)
Danny Boyle (Project Manager, Harps Community Project)

Joe O’Rourke (Secretary, Celtic Supporters Association)
Ciaran Kearney (Scottish Development Coach, Gaelic Athletic Association)
Patrick Callaghan (Scottish Development Worker ‘Scottish Region’, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann )
Seán Ó Gallchóir (Chairman, Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú)
Pat McAleer (An Scéal, Irish Community Newsletter )
Joe McAleer (Chairman, Glasgow St.Patrick’s Festival Committee)
Danny Gallagher (Glasgow Irish Heritage Group)
Jack Trow (Chairman, Harps Community Project)

Date: Sun, 3 Apr 2011 08:05:35 -0400
To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Letter to the Scottish Establishment on Anti Irish Racism/Catholicism !
Dear Sirs
Thank you for your recent email regarding the issue of sectarianism.
Let me firstly agree with you that all forms of sectarian and racist abuse and chanting have no place in our national game, or indeed anywhere in our national life. It is totally unacceptable and indeed illegal – we support the strongest possible action to deal with it, which is one reason why we convened the recent Summit, with the full and willing support of both Old Firm clubs, the three football authorities in Scotland, and the police.
It identified eight areas for further work – including addressing sectarianism, alcohol misuse, domestic abuse and violence, and hate crime on the internet; the practicalities of new fixture scheduling; the expansion of Football Banning Orders; the potential role of a dedicated policing Football Intelligence Unit; and indeed supporting the expansion of the excellent existing community and social partnerships between the Old Firm in order to take every opportunity to demonstrate cooperation and mutual respect.
The Joint Action Group established at the Summit – involving the Scottish Government and the organisations named above – has already met twice in order to develop proposals, and report to Ministers before the start of the new season.
These issues are regrettably deep-seated and long-standing, and change will not happen overnight, but let me assure you that there is agreement on all sides to look at what more can be done, and a recognition that we all have a responsibility to ensure that football is a force for good in society – in every regard.
I hope this helps to answer your query.
Kenny MacAskill

4th April
Dear Mr.MacAskill,
Thank you for your reply.
While we appreciate the sentiments and issues addressed in your reply we continue to have reservations about the current settings in which anti-Irish racism is being addressed. As outlined in our original letter the ‘sectarian’ framework has in our opinion helped mask the reality of anti- Irish racism. This is of particular concern to us within the settings of a Scottish Parliamentary election campaign where the Irish community has been somewhat isolated by the silence from all relevant parties to the overwhelming issue of anti-Irish racism. This is not only an issue which afflicts the SNP but also the Labour party, Conservative Party, Strathclyde Police and NGO’s whose specific remit from public funding is to tackle ‘sectarianism’ including ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ ‘Nil by Mouth’ and ‘Sense over Sectarianism’ The abject failure of any relevant party to utterly condemn publically ‘anti – Irish racism’ out with the sectarian framework and in the public sphere is central to our concerns. It is with frustration to again have to utilise the analogy that if ‘Irish’ was replaced with ‘Jew’ ‘Paki’ or ‘gypsy’ then the public condemnation particularly within the context of an election would have been widespread, expected and as vociferous as the tens of thousands of individuals who have expressed the opinion ‘the famine is over why don’t you go home’ with gusto and impunity for the last three years.
This song was first sung at a soccer match in 2008. In the preceding three years to our knowledge there has been 2 convictions for singing the ‘Famine Song’ This is utterly contemptible. It is obvious that anti-Irish racism is being dealt with either a completely lackadaisical attitude or the current mechanisms for recognising and tackling this problem are failing.
In order to find a solution and path which addresses the problem of anti-Irish racism then the Irish community must be included and consulted in this process with Government, Police, NGO’s and educational programmes supplemented by the publically funded NGO’s. We are perplexed by the current failure to open any dialogue with the Irish community. Celtic Football Club nor any of the other organisations involved in the ‘joint action group’ speak on behalf of Scotland’s Irish community.
These proposals are hollow as they have received no input from the community who the racial abuse is directed. We agree that these prejudices are deep-seated and long-standing and failure to recognise them for they are will merely perpetuate the problem.
We look forward to discussing this with yourself in the very near future. It is important for the Irish community to have this dialogue with the SNP before the 5th May.
Kind regards,

Danny Boyle (Project Manager, Harps Community Project)
Ciaran Kearney (Scottish Development Coach, Gaelic Athletic Association)
Patrick Callaghan (Scottish Development Worker ‘Scottish Region’, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann )
Seán Ó Gallchóir (Chairman, Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú)
Pat McAleer (An Scéal, Glasgow Irish Heritage Group)
Joe McAleer (Chairman, Glasgow St.Patrick’s Festival Committee)
Danny Gallagher (Glasgow Irish Heritage Group)
Jack Trow (Chairman, Harps Community Project)