The reaction to my piece on the song sheet of the Celtic away support has been instructive.Some of the hostile reaction has been like looking back at a 25 year old me.
From early childhood I had been fully socialised into the Fenian tradition.
It made sense of the world for me, but the world has gone and changed on me.
If I was in the heart of the Celtic choir these days, as I once was, I would hope that I would want the Bhoys to be singing songs about the IMF rather than the IRA.
Maybe it’s just age, but I also think it is a matter of place too.
Many of the Celtic choir will have Glasgow addresses. They aren’t connected to the daily reality of what is happening on this island any more than than I am to the Hebrides.
When you live in a place you pick up the zeitgeist if you are in any way aware of the world around you.
The challenges that this society is facing,the problems that weigh down on the real lives of real people can’t be encapsulated in “oo ah up the rah!”
I’m sure Thomas Davis would recognise that we are a province once again.
This time the impediment to Irish sovereignty isn’t the British, but the growing European super state and a venal and inadequate native political class that has allowed them in to rule us by proxy.
By the nature of all immigrant communities they take with them a cherished memory of what they left behind.
In my time as an energetic member of the rebel choir at Celtic park in the 1990s I never came across any of my fellow Choristers at the Conradh na Gaelige or any other organisation central to an Irish community in a large British city.
Were these guys also into the Gah or just the Rah?
Looking back it was a sub culture of IRA worship.
Why should that world view still cling on in contemporary Scotland?
I don’t have the answer to these questions, but I do think it is fair to put them.
No one likes their sense of entitlement being withdrawn.
Just look at the howls of outrage over on the blue side of the city over the past few years.
If we can put this ill-conceived legislation to one side for a minute.
A simple question to the Celtic support would be:
“Why in 2011 do you sing song ‘A’ or song ’B’?”
If they can answer that to their satisfaction then fine, but at least ask the question.
In the 1980s and 1990s I had a very clear idea as to why I was belting out IRA anthems at Celtic matches and was encouraging others to do so.
I’m sure the 25 year old me would have very little time for the 53 year old me.
I simultaneously admire and despair at people who will always be their younger selves.
Had the major players in the northern conflict been faithful to the certainties of their youth then there would have been no Peace Process.
There would have been no peace.
Outsiders carry out “common-sense inventories.”
I’m not part of the choir anymore nor do I have the certitude of those who would fulfill the role of apologist for them.
I don’t see the Celtic Irish song sheet as being particularly relevant to the Ireland I live in.
Moreover I don’t see any utility of these songs at Celtic matches in advancing any republican political agenda here in Ireland-a sort of musical Noraid.
Just before I set off for Dublin to cover the football I spoke with someone in Belfast who would be an anti-Belfast agreement Republican.
I hope to get an interview with someone in his organisation in the coming months.
In the course of that conversation I asked him, as an aside, about the Celtic fans chanting IRA slogans.
I put the following question to him:
“How important is it to your political project that Celtic fans continue to sing IRA songs at football matches?”
He laughed like a drain.
He pointed out to me that, of course, most of the songs and add ons was referring to are in endorsement of a now defunct republican organisation.
The provisional IRA has left the stage and they’re not coming back.
He reminded me that PIRA has not fired a shot in anger since 1997 and its arms have been rendered beyond use under the gaze of a British appointed proxy. It has been disarmed and its structures dismantled.
This member of the Republican group that doesn’t accept the new dispensation and he considers it risible that the Celtic end is part of their order of battle.
So I come back to the utility function.
What purpose do these songs at Celtic matches serve in 2011?
I have a hunch (and it’s only a hunch) that most of the young men engaging in these chants and songs have not thought much about it.
I was very clear a quarter of a century ago that I was taking part, as far as I was concerned, in a legitimate expression of political Irishness during the height of the Northern war.
All is changed, changed utterly.
All I have asked is for people to examine their behaviour and to justify it to themselves.
Of course they can sing and chant anything they like as long as no laws are broken.
Looking back I can see a lot to admire in the 25 year old me and his associates.
I hope that the younger me would see where I am coming from now, but then again maybe not…