The Celtic away support.

Everything in life has a cost.  I fear that the failure of Celtic FC to engage with their fans over offensive chanting could have a high price tag attached down the line.For whatever reason the club has not sought, as far as I’m aware, any meetings with supporter’s organisations to thrash out what songs and chants are unacceptable.

This does not absolve those currently indulging in those ditties at Celtic matches, but the club’s failure to act does, in my opinion, exacerbate the problem.

The singing and chanting of a section of the Celtic support at Easter Road today was clearly audible.

The songs and chants were Not sectarian nor were they racist, but given the context, in a soccer stadium in Britain, they were certainly offensive to any reasonable person.

Indeed to would be a rather strange reasonable person who would conclude that songs and chants endorsing proscribed organisations that have killed British nationals wasn’t offensive.

There are, as we know, people in Scotland who are offended by the mere existence of Irishness within the city of Glasgow. They would oppose a St. Patrick’s Day parade though the city centre and would conjure some reason to prevent a memorial to An Gorta Mor on the Broomielaw.

These people, who consider themselves THE people, are not reasonable.

Their objections, therefore, can be discounted.

They don’t have a vote or a voice in this.

Ignore them.

Rather think of the reasonable person at Easter Road today. Maybe  they were there because of corporate hospitality and were looking forward to an exciting game of football between two good teams.

I think they got that, but they also got the Falls road karaoke.

Incidentally such melodies are increasingly rare up that thoroughfare.

Perhaps the failure of the club to tackle the issue of offensive political chanting by Celtic fans is a fear of that specific dialogue itself.

A historically literate Celtic fan could easily advocate that if the political chanting was kept to the organisations and actions venerated in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin then the reasonable British person could not deem these offensive as Her majesty Queen Elizabeth II had laid a wreath and bowed her head in acknowledgement of the Fenians and of the men and women of 1916 and War of Independence IRA.

The club based in Kerrydale Street would do well to look across the city to see how the new owner has tackled the issue heretofore.

It is, of course, very early days, but credit where it is due.

A no nonsense statement in conjunction with supporters groups naming songs, chants and references that were no longer acceptable.

Yesterday at Ibrox there was, I am told, a similarly unequivocal   instruction over the PA system.

The chants and songs, especially in the second half as the home crowd got behind the team were entirely within the Rangers tradition and breaching no guidelines or laws.

It remains to be seen if this good start continues, especially at away games, but the club’s statement allows very little wriggle room for the Famine song choir.

Those in leadership positions at Celtic say that the songs and chants emanating from Celtic fans are not sectarian, but political.

That is, in the main, true.

However within a soccer stadium in Britain these chants are offensive to any reasonable person hearing them.

The club has allowed, by their inaction, a sense of entitlement among a sub section of Celtic fans to think it is their right to chant, for example, Provisional IRA endorsements at matches.

My trade in Scotland hasn’t helped with the sloppy use of language.

“Sectarian chanting from Celtic fans” actually means that they were singing or chanting in support of the Provisional IRA. The people who were leading members of that defunct organisation are now in the government of Northern Ireland and Sinn Fein now also has a substantial presence in Dail Eireann. The politicisation of the Northern rebellion against the Orange state and the transformation from bomb to ballot is the true legacy of Bobby Sands MP.

When Celtic was formed the Irish Home Rule party, the Land league and the Fenian Brotherhood were in the room as well as Mother Church.

Mayo man Michael Davitt, invited to lay the first sod at Celtic park in 1892, was a convicted felon in his youth, he was a Fenian gun runner. He had a rebel heart.

Celtic must never lose sight of those rebel roots and they should be celebrated in song and in story.

90 years ago this summer my grandfather and the rest of my clan were in a street fight with the British Empire in West Mayo. I think he was on the correct side of history as the demise of that empire would now suggest.  He also had a rebel heart and so does Celtic football club and so do I.

Unlike the choir at Easter Road my grandfather really was in the Irish Republican Army. I know from army records and depositions that he was involved in IRA operations were he killed at close range on several occasions. Towards the end of his days I know that he was deeply troubled by what he did in the war. This drunken chanting disrespects him and all who fought alongside him.  During summer holidays  in Mayo as a child I occasionally heard a ballad around a fireside from old people. These ancient folk (they were in their sixties!) were signing about what THEY had carried out in their war to establish Irish sovereignty. I can still picture the kitchen range in the old house, the cracked lino at one side of the stove. The songs were quiet and reflective. Just sometimes the memory mugs me on my own and I start a few bars of a tune. That generation really couldn’t think about those times without reflecting about the Civil war that followed. Although the British had gone the wounds of brother against brother were still there and haven’t totally healed even today. No wonder the musical interpretations of those times were melancholic.

Last season I watched a few games in a quiet pub in Letterkenny with my son and an amiable crowd of dads with their young lads. It was a nice vibe. I knew one of these fellas quite well. He had spent time in Long Kesh as a young man.  In the ten years I have known him he has rarely spoken about it and I don’t ask him. His youngest started school the same day as my youngest.  We became friends at the school gate waiting for our children. What I DO know about him is that for a time he was on the same wing as Bobby Sands.   He just told me one day in conversation. I didn’t know what to say. He is quietly spoken with an understated wisdom. There were games we watched together when the songs like the “roll of honour” were blasting through the speakers he certainly didn’t join in. He lived with Bobby Sands and he  knew the hunger strike was a done deal. Why doesn’t he join in the sing song then? Maybe it’s about respect?  I don’t know, but his silence instructs me to be quiet also.

The people who were in full voice today at Easter road if they care about Ireland’s cause should ask themselves if what they do at these football matches actually advances any progressive  political project on my island?

If they can’t answer in the affirmative then their sing along is sheer self-indulgence and utterly disrespectful.

The singing section of Celtic’s away support, to borrow the words of our Irish manager, really needs to take a good look at themselves.