Racist chant exposes Scottish fault-line

The Dublin government has been forced to take action over an anti-Irish chant sung by a section of the Glasgow Rangers supporters during recent soccer games in Scotland.

The chorus of the song, directed at people of Irish descent in Scotland, runs: “The Famine’s over, why don’t you go home?”.

The song, which in its full version runs to four verses and is considered racist, prompted an inquiry by the Irish Consul General in Scotland, Cliona Manahan, following a complaint to the Irish Embassy in London.

A spokesperson for Rangers FC criticised the attention given to the song, but said that the club had consulted local police about the matter. He claimed the people in question believed the song was “no more than a tit for tat ‘wind up’ of Celtic supporters” and “should not be singled out in this way and merit the attention of police, governments and anti-racism organisations”.

The song, which was first chanted during an ‘Old Firm’ football match between Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic, also surfaced during a recent match with Edinburgh-based Hibernian, another Scottish team with historical links to Ireland.

Derry Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Campbell welcomed the intervention of the 26-County Government in raising concerns about the song.

“For far to long this sort of anti-Irish, racist and sectarian chanting has gone on at sports events in Scotland and has been allowed to fester,” he said.

Although rarer than in the North of Ireland, sectarian violence continues to be a factor in certain areas of Scotland. Former Irish soccer international Neil Lennon was a recent high-profile victim of a sectarian attack in Glasgow city centre.

Celtic chairman John Reid condemned the song as “racist and deeply offensive”.

“The Irish Famine was a human tragedy of immense proportions,” he said.

“Few of those who sing this song will have stopped to think that famine is non-sectarian and the millions of people who died or were forced into mass emigration -some of them to Scotland -were from all faiths and traditions within Ireland.

“We should condemn racism and sectarianism without fear or favour wherever they arise. That is an essential part of Celtic Football Club’s ethos.

“I would again condemn, without equivocation, the use of any chants or songs which can be interpreted as support for religious or ethnic hatred, or for acts of violence.”

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© 2008 Irish Republican News