The implications of the new legislation.

I wrote here last Sunday that because of inaction by Celtic football club there was a sense of entitlement among some of the fans about continuing their penchant for indulging in IRA chants at football matches.http://www.philmacgiollabhain.com/the-celtic-away-support/#more-1371

The subsequent cyber storm in the green and white internet convinced me that some people will not give up their inheritance go lightly.

Some people who follow my work were surprised that I was expressing this view.

Well I was surprised that they were surprised as I have been writing online and in the fanzine Alternative View as well as and broadcasting to a Celtic audience since the start of the year stating and re-stating that the supporter’s song sheet, especially away from home, had to be overhauled.

Moreover I questioned the motivations for such chanting.

Was it to advance a Republican agenda in Ireland?

Or was it just because it feels good?

Was the political really just personal?

Was it the sound of a politically motivated cadre or the din of boozy self-indulgence?

I plumped for the latter.

The IRA chanting at Celtic matches has a long history and undoubtedly a sociologist would see it rooted in a streak of defiance and alienation from a socially excluded community.

Occupational parity was achieved for Catholics of Irish ethnicity in Glasgow in 2001, in New York that socio-economic benchmark was reached in 1901 despite that fact that both cities receiving large numbers of Irish Catholics in the same historical moment.

My proposition was that given the material reality of the Glasgow Irish had changed so now should their mood music.

The new score should be one of growing cultural confidence not ghetto chippiness.

The following day the new Celtic website “The Celtic Network” (TCN) ran a poll on the issue.

http://www.thecelticnetwork.com/2011/07/26/its-time-to-discuss-ira-chants-at-matches/#more-667

The results were that 70% agreed with the proposition that “IRA songs” should be dropped at matches.

http://www.thecelticnetwork.com/2011/07/27/70-of-celtic-fans-who-voted-call-for-an-end-to-ira-songs/#more-684

The website’s moderator isn’t claiming scientific validity for the internet survey, but it would be fair to say that pro-IRA chants among the Celtic support are a minority sport.

It was immediately pointed out on TCN that “IRA songs” was too broad a term.

http://www.thecelticnetwork.com/2011/07/27/what-songs-are-acceptable-to-be-sung-at-celtic-games/#more-688

My point was that songs or chants endorsing “proscribed organisations” was legally problematic and would become even more so with the impending changes to the law.

An unanswerable retort to such a proposition is “who does the proscribing?”

There is an impenetrable revolutionary logic to the politically committed on this issue and I admire that.

However, given the legislation that is coming down the pipe, it does seem to be in denial of what is hurtling towards them.

In the Scottish sports clan the brave stance by Graham Spiers of the Times in challenging the “one side is as bad as the other” has finally won through.

Even the venerable Hugh Keevins accepts that, in terms of problematic songs and chants, Rangers had by far the larger problem than their city rivals. Although this season the behaviour of the Rangers support has been exemplary.

It is stating that the crushingly obvious that the majority of this problem has been found among the Rangers support in previous seasons.

However, it would be denying reality to say that Celtic’s supporters at away games are blameless and it is time for that to be faced.

Celtic’s main singing section the “Green Brigade” are reportedly split on the issue of IRA chants.

The new legislation is framed around the concept of offense to a “reasonable person.”

The potential problems for this have been outlined by Dr John Kelly of Edinburgh University.

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s4/committees/justice/inquiries/OBFTCBill/OB4.pdf

“The biggest problem with the proposed Bill is the equivocal Section 1(2) (e) (“behaviour

that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive”).”

He continues:

“Reasonable people are not always aware of the subtleties of bigotry, particularly (though not exclusively) when they are not part of the target group. Therefore, arbiters deemed by some to be ‘reasonable’ cannot be charged with upholding laws that are governed by such subjective and contested terms, symbols and interpretations. The law must be explicit and unequivocal here!”

My own piece from the Irish Post yesterday revealing on what BBC Scotland’s head of Sport David Harron thought of the Irish national anthem at the Scottish cup final in May means that Dr.Kelly’s fears maybe well founded.

http://www.irishpost.co.uk/tabId/60/itemId/11254/BBC-in-row-with-Glasgow-Irish-over-Soldiers-Song.aspx

There are some people in Scotland who clearly consider any cultural expression of Irishness to be sectarian and offensive.

If it is a generally held view  that singing the Irish national anthem at a Celtic match is sectarian then does that mean that people  holding such a view are the reasonable folk of Scotland?

Despite the genuine concerns of the workability of this new proposed legislation it will almost certainly become law in early in the New Year.

There will then be a new set of rules for those who wish to sing and chant at football matches about things other than, well, football.

In pointing out this to supporters of my own team I’ve quickly found out that there will be a rather painful period of readjustment for some on Planet Fitba.