Sectarianism puts women and children at alarming risk of violence
Scotland divided by sectarianism – a Rangers versus Celtic crowd.
Why would The Democrat want to be writing about the Celtic v Rangers match when its mission is to supply news and comment about West Dunbartonshire and South Argyll?
There is a simple answer to this question which is that a large proportion of the 90,000 people who live here will have an interest in the outcome of this game.
And an even great number will be waiting anxiously to find out what impact it will have on the community – possibly even on the safety of family members who attend this match or simply watch it on television on Sunday.
Will there be fighting and breach of the peace on the streets? Will there be clashes between the police and spectators in the ground? Will there be many assaults, stabbings or murders? Will more women than usual suffer violence at the hands of their alcohol-fuelled or drugged up partners or husbands?
These are legitimate questions. It’s a shame they are still being asked in the 21st century, but they are.
Bigotry hasn’t gone away you know. Sectarianism and related violence, like the poor, will always be with us, it seems.
And now that these two Scottish clubs are playing in European competitions, it appears that xenophobia will also be a factor.
Foreign fans attending the last two European games at Ibrox Stadium have been stabbed outside the ground.
Some people think it’s funny – “We sent them home in stitches,” one eejit said after the event.
Bigotry is out there on our doorsteps and even inside our homes and schools and workplaces.
Neither the government nor the churches want to take responsibility for it.
Why else would they have sat on their hands and said nothing meaningful about it for the past 120 years, although the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland wanted the Irish “sent home” in the 1920s. Their home was then still part of the UK.
The response from Brian McKenna to a social media posting by the Archdiocese of Glasgow protesting about yet another Orange Walk passing a church where the parish priest was disgustingly spat upon is typical.
He wrote: “Don’t forget that these people are mostly poorly educated, working class men with little knowledge of the historical basis for their little walks and simple tunes.
“Sadly, many of them are married and passing on their simplistic view of life to their children.”
He may not have intended his words to be interpreted in this way, but Brian appears to be laying the blame on our education services for not enlightening school pupils to the extent that they are equipped to be decent, law abiding citizens seven days a week.
That is certainly the fault of parents, but the people responsible for education, the government, local authorities and the Catholic Church, who insist on keeping segregated schools, are also to blame.
The Church insists segregation plays no part in sectarianism, but it doesn’t help in the quest to eradicate it. The government reduces financial support and staffing and crippling cuts on an ongoing basis.
Even Pope Francis, pictured left, says integration is one of the most important ways of settling immigrants in countries and communities, not just in schools but in employment, housing and leisure activities.
I am with the Pope on this.
Pope John Paul II, when he came to Glasgow in 1982 to be greeted by a vast crowd at Bellahouston Park, urged Catholics and their fellow Christians, to walk hand in hand through this world together. The fact that the education system is now pursuing a policy of building schools where Catholics go in one gate and “Protestants” go in another (they conveniently call them joint campuses) does not reflect the Pope’s message in any way whatsoever. What is does reflect, is the segregation that takes place at Celtic v Rangers matches.
And since the Church has, since the papal visit to Glasgow, decided to make JPII a saint, what hope is there for anyone else if the Scottish bishops have decided to pay no heed to a saint who was a pope?
They must be aware of the saying that if you always do what you always did then you will always get what you always got. And what we’ve got is sectarianism and divided communities.
Working class men by the way is a description of people who dirtied their hands in the shipyards, factories and building sites. It is one which many of us who came from such backgrounds are proud of, but today “the hewers of wood and drawers of water” include people working in low paid jobs; on the minimum wage and zero hours’ contracts; dispirited and depressed men and women who are unemployed and made to almost beg for welfare benefits under pain of sanctions, which are designed to render them penniless and force them back to work, even when they are patently unfit or sick.
The “little walks and simple tunes” reference is insulting and demeaning – and it’s not funny.
Poverty, unaffordable house rents, unemployment and poor physical and mental health are the harvest we gather from these impositions on our most deprived people.
For some of them Orange Walks mean respite, just as Celtic versus Rangers games bring respite for others.
In the main though, the majority of the 60,000 spectators who will be at the game will have access to the considerable amount of money it costs to get through the turnstiles and drink and dine in the hospitality suites.
Prawn sandwiches, fillet steaks and Chateau Neuf de Pape have taken over from pies and Bovril.
The car park will be full to overflowing with Mercedes limos and Jaguars and Range Rovers.
Shutting things down, banning discussions and constant criticism and complaints about Orange Walks, Republican marches and the like is not the solution.
Not so long ago, banning so-called Old Firms matches was being suggested as the way to end football violence – and at the same time reduce domestic violence.
This is why Councillor Danny Lennie looks forward with considerable dread to the prospect of all big match days.
Cllr Lennie is rightly appalled by the record high levels of wife beating in West Dunbartonshire.
I have heard some people say since that it was politically injudicious of him to raise Celtic and Rangers’ names at a council meeting.
But I think he was right to ask the question about when what he called “the bigot brothers” meet, and what effect that has on the amount of violence that is inflicted on spouses and partners by men who are out of control.
The health and well-being of women and children, who are the main ones who suffer from this blight, is far more important than any Rangers and Celtic game.
Every detail of the impact of Old Firm matches, Orange Walks or Republican Marches should be discussed in public.
The Catholic Church and the Orange Order should get together to discuss the date and time of this Walk and others planned for the future.
Has no one suggested for example that it might be possible to change the time of the Saturday evening Mass in St Alphonsus?
Or for the Orange Order to give a firm commitment that they will not be marching when a service is taking place in that church?
Meanwhile, Scott Mullen, of BBC Sport Scotland, is reporting that Rangers’ resurgence under Steven Gerrard will be considered as part of the policing plan for Sunday’s Old Firm match.The Ibrox side have qualified for the Europa League group stage and go into the Celtic Park game unbeaten under Gerrard.
Superintendent Simon Jeacocke, the event commander for Police Scotland, says the expected competitiveness of the fixture will have an impact.
“These matches are always great occasions,” he told BBC Scotland.
“Obviously, we look at how the teams are playing, what’s been happening on and off the pitch so we can learn from these events and apply them to our planning and preparation.”
Sunday’s Premiership game will be the first time the away allocation will have been reduced.
Both clubs made a decision in May to slash the number of tickets given to opposition supporters at their respective home games, with only 800 Rangers fans attending Celtic Park on Sunday compared to 7,000 in the past.
Supt Jeacocke explains that, despite the number being much smaller, policing resource at the game will not be reduced.
“What I have available to me is the opportunity to move those resources where they are required,” he said.
“If I need them at the match I can have them here, if I need them in the city I can do that.
“There are different challenges for every game, not necessarily harder challenges, just different. We’ve been working very closely with the clubs and I’m very confident we have a good plan in place.”
One measure that has been introduced for this weekend will involve away fans being held back at the stadium for 15 minutes after the final whistle.
“The challenge for us in the stadium is that both Rangers and Celtic fans will be in the same part of the stadium in the south-east corner,” added Supt Jeacocke.
“That will allow us to empty the stadium of all the other fans and then we can safely allow the Rangers fans to leave.”
Orangemen on the march in Dumbarton and Belfast.
The Archdiocese of Glasgow has issued a statement saying that it has been made aware of a proposed march past St Alphonsus Church, this time on September 8, by the Royal Black Perceptory.
The spokesman said: “It is dismaying that yet another attempt is being made to parade past St Alphonsus in the wake of the shameful scenes of last month.
“It is concerning that organisers do not have the wisdom and sense themselves to suggest a re-route.
“The organisers have chosen a route and a time which is fraught with tension, and this can only be seen as a provocation or an attempt to create fear and anxiety among people who will be entering and leaving the church at that moment.
“We would hope that the warnings of Police Scotland about the threat to safety and public order, expressed just last week on the occasion of another attempted march past the church, will be heeded, and that the parade will be re-routed by the City Council’s Processions Committee which meets on Monday.”
An indication of how the public feel about the march during which Canon Tom White, pictured left, was given in responses on social media.
James Morgan wrote: “The police should get involved and do their job. I doubt very much that they would allow a march past a mosque if it was likely to result in tension or worse.”
Bridget Carson wrote: “It shouldn’t be allowed to go near any chapels. Why is this not being banned altogether? Shocking.”
Jacqueline Hunter wrote: “Don’t understand why the council or the police don’t simply ban these anti- Christian marches.”
Danny Coll wrote: “The fact that the Orange Order cancelled the last walk, says it all. They weren’t allowed to pass the church, therefore they weren’t interested in marching anywhere else, a case of ‘If we can’t provoke, what’s the point?’”
Thomas Haverstock wrote from Canada: “And the Scottish Tourist Board want the likes of me living in Canada to come on holiday.”