So what I am about to ask for does not come easily to me. It is a position I have arrived at after a great deal of thought and not a little confusion and it is this – it is time for a tactical withdrawal of some of the Republican songs from our repertoire. I know the arguments about freedom of speech, about the difference between political and sectarian songs and chants and I agree wholeheartedly with them. In an age old article for Keep the Faith I once wrote that I would welcome a legal defence of songs like the Boys of the Old Brigade or the Broad Black Brimmer because they could not in any way be deemed sectarian. However I would no longer welcome the opportunity this might give to our detractors.
So what should we not sing? I am going to be specific here. There are three letters in particular that need to be kept under wraps for the foreseeable future – I, R and A. Why? Simply because those are the letters that appear to be giving either our Board or the SFA or both an excuse not to act on the despicable chants to which we are subjected every time Bigotry FC come to Celtic Park and indeed every time they play anywhere.
It isn’t going to take much to do it, just a tactical withdrawal of any mention of the IRA. Off the top of my head that would mean about two or three songs being kept for the supporters buses and the bars. I am not talking about the Soldiers Song, Sean South or Aiden McAnespie but I am asking people to refrain from the silly line in the Neil Lennon song, the ‘Up the RA’ at the end of the Celtic Symphony and any ‘add ons’ which not so long ago seemed to have disappeared. It Goes without saying chants relating to unwashed and illegitimate Orange Men have no place among our support and to be honest these have all but disappeared in any case.
We can sing our songs, express our shared history through them and they can be a fine addition to the myriad of purely football related songs that make up the Celtic Songbook. We just need to be smarter about what we sing and when we sing it.
It is perfectly understandable that Celtic supporters, who for a good number of years had kept some of the songs under wraps, songs which are political and not sectarian, would bring them back out when it appears that no one, the SFA, UEFA, even our own club, are doing anything to tackle the hatred, the sectarianism and the racism of the Rangers support. Yet I sense a window of opportunity to shine a light on Scotland’s problem club and their compliant Football Association.
To borrow from a certain Heavy Weight boxer, we have great opportunity over the coming weeks to ‘Rope a Dope’. All we need to do is sit back and watch it happen. But believe you me the wounded beast that is the SFA and in particular it’s militant refereeing wing will want to take a bit of Celtic with them as they go down. We need to deny them the opportunity. Let the People Sing, but don’t let the singing be without thought.