The Old Firm, tit for tat and Glasgow city blues

By Jude Collins

If it hadn't been for four or five asthma seizures, I'd probably be talking with a Glasgow accent and voting Scot Nat. Immediately after they were married my parents moved to Glasgow from rural Tyrone and Donegal, a brother and sister were born there, both my parents loved the place ("All those shops!" my mother would recall. "And you could watch people walking about!"). Then my father started getting severe asthma attacks, his doctor told him he'd be more likely to get better back where he came from, and so they returned to Tyrone.

Like most people, I get a warm glow when I think of my parents as a young married couple, but that's not the point here. The point is, they were told to go back to Ireland, where they came from, and they went. Every week, tens of thousands of Scottish people of Irish descent are told to go back to Ireland, where they came from - except the argument given is that the Famine - more accurately An Gorta Mor - is over. This is the famous 'Famine Song' which Rangers supporters and other dunderheads howl at their fellow-countrymen week in, week out. And it's not just having Irish origins that offends the dunderheads - it's the Catholic religion. You may remember the BNP tried a similar line in England, urging the Catholic Irish there to go back to the bogs from which they came. There were some good jokes at the time as to who would be nominated to tell Roy Keane, but to the credit of the English the pathetic affair fizzled out.

In Scotland, it continues to flourish. Glasgow Celtic manager Neil Lennon's walls are daubed, he's attacked on the street, his life is repeatedly threatened. And yet the cowardly British media insists on talking about The Old Firm and both teams are at fault, and the arch-rivalry, and that's football. When there are bust-ups such as we saw during and after a recent Celtic-Rangers match, it's very much tsk, tsk, both sides quarreling again, what a pity, what can we do? No mention of the fact that sectarianism among Glasgow Celtic supporters is dwarfed by that of Rangers. Do you recall Rangers' manager Allie McCoist getting death threats? Can you imagine the reaction if week after week, the Jewish or Muslim or black section of the Scottish population were told, in a chorus of thousands, to go home? Would the reaction of officialdom "You know, we're working really hard on this problem, doing our best" be seen as good enough?

It's primitive: people of Irish and Catholic background being subjected to triumphalist, mocking chanting and singing for nine months of the year. Where else in the world would tolerate it?... Oh, I see. Mmm. When did you say the marching season begins?

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