The Integrity Famine – Revisited

Song Returns With Impunity
Song Returns With Impunity

By Auldheid

Yesterday’s outpouring from Ibrox suggests it might be worth airing again a piece first written at the height of the old Rangers song book excesses, if only to remind the SFA of Rangers (old & new) history in respect of their repertoire.

 

Getting into a debate about songs can be tricky, particularly in view of the OBFA. The laws existed to deal with the worst ditties in the Rangers song book however that Act seems to have been created just to establish a false equivalence between illegal songs and unpleasant songs however it seems pretty simple to me – songs which glorify the murder of individuals based upon race or religion have no place in football and football shouldn’t need new laws to deal with them.

 

Why do the SFA tolerate what UEFA do not? In Argentina the referee is instructed to stop a game when such songs are sung.

 

TRFC should note that getting into Europe and being welcomed by Scottish soccer is going to need a lot more than promotion given the old RFC’s poor record in observing UEFA rules in the past and their insistence on clinging to out-dated songs banned by UEFA.

 

And Now the Piece by Auldheid;

 

Oh well I see the great white underclass that have attached themselves to Rangers were at it again at Celtic Park. They were captured on film taken by the police/SPL, belting out their offensive repertoire. They even managed to added insult to Scott Brown’s injury with cries of “Die ya fenian bastard” whilst also singing in large numbers the racist “Famine Song” that urges folk of Irish Catholic heritage living in Scotland to go home.

 

This song is not the harmless “banter” chant they argue it is to justify its singing. No one who has read the words of the song can be in any doubt it was designed to cause offence to that part of the Scottish community with an Irish heritage. Had similar sentiments been aimed at any other Scottish community e.g. of Asian heritage the idea it was banter would have been ridiculed out of existence.

 

Designing offensive songs is nothing new for the minds who managed to design another piece of filth aimed at the memory of the late Jock Stein. They got away with that one because by luck rather than judgement a dead person cannot sue for defamation of character. But their luck and luck it was, ran out with The Famine Song. This time the law on racism was broken and suddenly they found themselves threatened with jail. It is no wonder they try and re-categorise TFS as anything but racist describing it as “offensive to some” or even “sectarian” as the lesser of provable of charges laid against them. But The Famine Song is racist and so punishable – just as much as the fenian blood they sang of wallowing up to their knees in was deemed sectarian and punished by UEFA.

 

The Rangers support were warned by the SPL about their behaviour at Inverness in August 2007 but no punishment was given because of Rangers efforts to combat sectarian behaviour. Then in August 2008, 7000 of them sang TFS loud and clear, this in spite of all Rangers efforts during season 2007/2008. This demonstration of their attitude created for them an embarrassing outcry as the racist nature of TFS became evident, culminating in John Reid’s “without fear or favour” defence of his statement to The Celtic AGM in November 2008, when he denounced The Famine Song as “the pretty vile” and “pretty vicious racist” song that it is. (And pretty it isn’t.)

 

Following complaints from Celtic supporters and from outside Scotland by the Irish Government the Ranger’s support were informed by leaflets and announcements that anyone singing TFS could be arrested. Two arrests subsequently took place at Kilmarnock in November and Inverness in January but unsurprisingly the Rangers support appears to have taken no notice and true to form TFS was belted out with gusto on 15th February some six months after it first came to the public’s attention at the previous encounter with Celtic at Celtic Park in August 2007.

 

After a further 6 months of “effort” on top of the previous 18 since Rangers were first warned the only conclusions that can be drawn are:

 

  • The steps taken by Rangers have been ineffective.
  • The steps taken by the Police have failed to act as a deterrent.
  • When you are dealing with a “We arra peepul” mentality you are dealing with folk who think they are above the law.

 

It would be interesting and perhaps informative therefore to examine the above issues in more detail.

 

Rangers Efforts

Ranger’s efforts to tackle the issue that saved them from punishment in 2007 must be questioned on grounds of integrity and effectiveness. Let’s take integrity first as without integrity effective action will be all but impossible.

 

Integrity according to the dictionary means:

 

“adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”

 

It is fair to say that integrity has been more noticeable by its absence than presence in how Rangers approached this problem. An honest, moral and ethical approach would have meant two things:

 

An unequivocal statement that this song was morally wrong and had no place at a club of Rangers standing in the Scottish Community

 

and consequently

 

A condemnation of those who sang it, on the simple grounds that it was wrong. As such Rangers would not wish to be associated with those who created it and sang it.

 

Instead Rangers advised their fans by leaflet in September and advised again in October via screens at Ibrox that the police had told Rangers that their fans risked arrest by singing TFS. As a result Rangers decided it was only fair to warn their fans of the situation. Tellingly Rangers stated in October on their web site “The decision to arrest anyone is one which is made not by the club but by the police”.

 

In taking this approach Rangers not only failed to roundly condemn TFS from the very beginning as the racist and offensive item that it undoubtedly was, they also stated that they were not responsible for the action the police said they would take. Quite how that sits with they made every effort frankly does not stack up as the consequences that followed have shown.

 

The failure of Rangers to own the problem and condemn the song led to it being condemned by Celtic Chairman John Reid at Celtic’s AGM in November 2008. This led to a war of words between Dr Reid and Sir David Murray that, if it produced a similar statement of condemnation of TFS by Sir David Murray himself, those words of condemnation are not easy to find.

In his “without fear or favour “rebuttal of Sir David Murray’s response to his AGM statement, John Reid did manage to finally elicit a statement by Sir David Murray that The Famine Song was wrong, but attributing the actual word condemnation to Sir David Murray is no easy task and you would think if he had used the word he would have been widely reported.

 

This was in November 2008. So nearly a full three months after TFS had taken centre stage and involved Irish and Scottish governments, Rangers finally took a partial moral stance and conceded TFS was wrong. If they actually also condemned TFS it would be informative to see where, when and under what circumstances.

 

This failure to take a moral stance and condemn from the outset did nothing to discourage the “We arra peepul” mindset that fails to recognise wrong from right and the absence of such a lead from Rangers themselves only encouraged all sorts of justifications for the song to be voiced. The “Ditty Vacant” by James Traynor in the Daily Record being a particular example of at best incompetent journalism and at worst a lack of integrity/ judgement or a pandering to the masses to sell the newspaper. Whatever way you look at it, it was not Mr Traynor’s or The Record’s finest hour.

 

It was against such a background almost totally devoid of integrity that action was being taken by police. In spite of Ranger’s statement TFS was clearly heard at Easter Road on 28th September, at Love St on 5th October, at Hamilton on 25th October and on 9th November at Rugby Park. It was only after this last game that an arrest for signing TFS was made, followed by another in Inverness in early January. Thus the only action has been two arrests over 5 games involving numbers big enough for the song to be clearly heard on TV.

 

The question here though is not about the police, it is about the effectiveness of policy as a deterrent. Did the threat of arrest and the arrests themselves act as a sufficient deterrent? Not on the evidence of 15Th February at Celtic Park where TFS, was clearly heard along with other another chant directed at Scott Brown. It offered the same threat of violence to a person of a religious persuasion in the same kind of words of The Billy Boys that saw Rangers punished by UEFA in May 2006.

On the evidence of 15th February the action taken by the Police has been ineffective as a deterrent, but the responsibility does not lie with the police, it lies with Rangers F.C. who, along with their media apologists, (Smoke and Mirrors is as apt as it ever was ) cannot argue that Rangers have done everything possible to tackle the issue

when it is clear by their own words in October – “The decision to arrest anyone is one which is made not by the club but by the police”- that they have not.

 

The SPL cannot play that “get out of jail” card this time to justify not taking any action unless they subscribe to the latest view that they too are as powerless as Rangers are to act against a white underclass who have attached themselves to Rangers.

 

To do so would be to surrender to mob rule to signal that in Scotland we are prepared to risk a civil society for the sake of just how many exactly?

 

This takes us nicely to what many Celtic supporters feel is the real issue.

There is already the idea in Celtic cyberspace that whilst Sir David Murray might genuinely recognise the real problem, he is afraid to address it. This could be down to either the cost to Rangers of removing and or changing the mindset that conceived TFS or simply fear of attack from the same vile and vitriol that permeates TFS. Sir David already stands accused by that wedge of support of not doing enough to defend Ranger’s traditions. And therein lays the real problem.

 

In reading what Celtic Chairman John Reid said in his statement to the Celtic AGM on the singing of The Famine Song, where he defined who Celtic are and what they stand for (see in bold below), His statement begged this question of Rangers:

 

Just exactly who are Rangers today in 2009 and what do they stand for?

As Celtic supporters we have our own often biased and cynical views but it is not beyond us to seriously wonder if Rangers could ever come up with a statement about themselves, about who they are and what they stand for that would not suffer greatly when compared to Celtic’s?

 

Celtic support would agree by and large (because we like the odd tiff amongst ourselves) with Dr Reid that we are no where near the same as Rangers at this point in time in terms of attitude and behaviour to our Rangers counterparts. However perhaps in our very best of charitable moments, because charity is after all the very essence of Celtic is it not, we might hope to see the tradition that produced TFS replaced with a tradition like our own that is for an ideal that is good rather than Rangers tradition whose only raison d’etre appears to be against something – Celtic and their support.

 

Perhaps if Rangers could define or redefine themselves in the same positive charitable (in every sense of the word) terms, as Celtic can, in terms that have helped form the Celtic attitude, that for all our human failings still earns us plaudits and respect around the world, then Rangers might create a more solid foundation to move onwards and upwards from?

 

This is an extremely big ask, self examination and taking responsibility for what we have made of ourselves is no easy task, especially if that sense of self has an element of co dependence, but there are many decent Rangers supporters who do not define themselves in comparison to us and could surely give Rangers a set of more positive aims that reflect the best in them, rather than let the worst amongst them continue to hold sway.

 

Perhaps what Rangers really need from all of Scottish society is encouragement to undergo a heart change – a metanoia, rather than condemnation and punishment? Both these might achieve the short term goal of ending the singing of TFS and most Celtic fans would take that for a while. But it would only be for a while. It would do nothing to drain the swamp in which TFS was conceived and where other similar creepy crawlies are hidden just waiting to be hatched.

 

 

 

 

 

John Reid’s Statement at Celtic AGM

 

Why did you decide to speak out about ‘The Famine Song’ and is it important that the club make sure that our supporters protect the integrity of Celtic’s name?
I spoke out about it because this is a pretty vile song and I don’t think that any reasonable person who has read the words of this song can see it as anything other than a pretty vicious, racist song. It combines racism and sectarianism and goes beyond a lot of other things that we have seen in the past. That’s one of the reasons why I spoke out and I also come from Irish and Scottish descent myself, so that’s the main reason.

But there is a bigger and wider reason as well and that is, the nature of this club. We are proud of the fact that we have Scottish origins and Irish heritage and we are never going to deny that. We will defend that and that is not a cause for shame, it’s a cause for recognition and celebration. Indeed our very name ‘Celtic’ is about the unity of the Scottish and Irish people. It stands against those who would divide, discriminate and oppose those two entities. And because we start from that basis of the unity of peoples then we have always been open and inclusive as a club.

That’s why traditionally we have never discriminated. That’s why our board, our shareholders, our footballers and our footballing heroes come from all sorts of different backgrounds, religions, ethnic groups and do so internationally. That’s why I said last year that whatever differences we have when we come into this club we leave them at the door because we believe truly, in a Scotland that is one bit of many cultures and is way beyond now being Scots and Irish. That is our stance, therefore we have to speak out when we see racism or sectarianism being practised and of course, if we are going to do that we have to practise what we preach.

We have to be careful, from our own point of view and that’s why I am absolutely delighted that our fans in recent years have had accolades from the world football authorities, from the European football authorities and let me say when I point out that there may be a minority who are transgressing our own rules, that they are our own rules. I don’t know any Celtic fans who have been chanting racist slogans or anything of that nature, so I am not comparing like with like here. But I am saying that we have got to be whiter than white and that we have to explain to and educate everybody at this club, including that tiny minority which at away games sometimes leaves us exposed to those who would attempt to say that we are all the same. We aren’t all the same, but we have to make sure that that is evident to everybody. That’s the nature of Celtic Football Club.

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