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19 September 2016

Celtic and Rangers fans must show common decency's more important than club loyalties

Celtic and Rangers must denounce hatred vocally and face down the thugs in their midst, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Fans at last weekend’s Old Firm game between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead
Fans at last weekend’s Old Firm game between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead

It’s a pity that social media attract such a large number of bigots, hysterics and mischief makers, but maybe they are made less dangerous by having such a safety valve. Because I like to know what people who don’t have the chance to write in newspapers are thinking about, I get a lot out of Facebook and Twitter.

I also get more amusement than annoyance from the impotent insults of my more virulent critics.

Last week Gerry Adams said: “No one representing Sinn Fein should be engaged in anything other than the very, very best of behaviour in whatever form of dialogue, or debate, or argument they’re involved in, but particularly in terms of social media.”

That’s a noble aspiration, but I fear not all his followers are paying attention.

Otherwise, I doubt if yet another fake Facebook account — this time showing an IRA funeral — would have been set up in my name.

My thanks to the friends who got it removed.

I couldn’t do anything about it, since simultaneously Facebook had removed my account and is demanding complicated bureaucratic proofs of my existence that I can’t deal with at the moment.

I don’t know who was behind that, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the worst elements among extreme Celtic supporters might have been involved.

They haven’t taken kindly to some of my recent criticism of their anti-Semitic campaigns masquerading as anti-Zionism, or their attempts to dehumanise Rangers supporters and Orangemen by describing them as Neanderthals or lumping them together with the likes of the Ku Klux Klan.

Vulgar abuse is one thing.

Dehumanisation is another, and is much more dangerous.

As I’ve said before, I have neither interest in nor knowledge about football itself.

However, I read enough about Scottish society to be under no illusions about how badly behaved Old Firm fans can be.

The tiny number of Rangers supporters who participated in smashing lights and roof tiles and cubicle doors in Parkhead toilets are a disgrace to their club and will, I hope, be brought to justice.

But the Celtic supporters who hanged effigies of a Rangers supporter and an Orangeman are guilty of a deed that was chilling in its deliberate inhumanity.

In what resembled a mock execution, the sex dolls had their hands tied behind their backs with black tape and were suspended from nooses below a banner reading: ‘This is it Bhoys, this is war!’

There were also banners saying ‘KAH — Kill All Huns’ and ‘Know Your Place Hun Scum’.

This is on a different level from wanton vandalism — bad as that is — or from the sectarian songs the two sides sing at each other, about which I often feel far too much fuss is made.

I’ve sung many a rebel and loyalist song in my time, sometimes with people from the opposite tradition.

You can’t censor historical antagonisms out of existence, yet with good humour and self-mockery you can do much to reduce their impact.

But there’s nothing but profound moral sickness surrounding these effigies and these banners.

If it’s true that former Rangers striker Kris Boyd was being targeted, because his brother took his own life a few days before the match, it’s even worse.

Such hatred demeans Celtic, the game and Scotland.

We must draw comfort where we can, though. The appalling effigies were also criticised by many Celtic fans, ashamed to be associated in any way with such depravity.

Emily tweeted: “Really quite ashamed to be a Celtic fan after seeing this, bloody sickening.”

It’s easy to condemn the excesses of the other side, but when it comes to tribal warfare, like Emily, the good people need to take on their own thugs.

The leadership of both clubs need to denounce ethnic and other hatreds more publicly.

Decent supporters need to look beyond normal rivalries and unite to show that common decency is more important than club loyalty.

It would be good to see a concerted effort by Celtic and Rangers fans to say that they are appalled by expressions of hatred of any kind made in their names.

Better than letting their dregs dominate the field of social media.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards