In some schools, it is fashionable to treat instances of bullying by bringing together the bully and the victim to “talk it out” and resolve their differences.  This is seen as even handed, and means the bully is not stigmatised and sees the error of his ways.  Conversely it also serves to blame the victim equally for getting his head kicked in.  Not very fair at all, is it?  Well I’ve seen it happen.  Deciding from the beginning that they are “both as bad as each other” absolves the mediator from taking sides, and standing up to the bully themselves. As parents, we all wish teachers were free to tell little Johnny’s parents that he is an odious little shit, and it’s their fault.  But no; they pussy foot around, and attempt to deal with Johnny’s “issues”, whilst blaming his victims for running into his fist.

This scenario has a lot of similarities with the sectarian shame hovering over a certain Glasgow football club. No one likes to cast the blame on one side, for fear of being targeted themselves or being seen as taking sides. Politicians won’t do it, football authorities won’t do it, and the media certainly won’t do it. I am more than happy to do it.  There are nasty, evil-minded and malevolent forces that coalesce around Rangers Football Club.  It is no longer appropriate or acceptable to use the phrase the “Old Firm”, as it suggests some sort of friendly competitive partnership, where both parties are happy to be associated with each other.  It’s long been said that for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing (Edmund Burke, 1729).  I am convinced that the majority of those who associate themselves with RFC are indeed good men, but that they are standing idly by, afraid to stand up to those who have used their football club as a rallying point for the airing of a despicable agenda of persecution.  They despise anything that is Irish or Catholic, and aren’t too fond of anyone who isn’t white, British and blindly loyal to the Queen.  They are not defined by who they are, but rather by who they hate.

At its heart this is nothing to do with football, and has very little to do with religion.  Sure, those two platforms are fields on which this particularly stupid battle is being waged, but football didn’t start it, and merely serves to polarise the sides.  Religion is used as a convenient front for enmities between those who have no religion, and define themselves by their hatred of another person’s religion.  Two closely related strands of the same religion, Christianity, are abused by those whose true differences lie in tribal loyalties, grudges and the politics of the 20th century.

This hatred has manifest itself most recently in the sending of death threats, live bullets and bombs to the Celtic team manager, Neil Lennon, who has also been beaten unconscious on the streets of Glasgow. Additionally he was driven from being the Northern Irish team captain for the offense of playing for Celtic.  I can’t think of any Rangers players, managers or officials having been treated like this.  Moreover, Rangers supporters do not need the presence of Celtic to behave this way.  The RFC fans have been condemned by UEFA for their sectarian chants, wrecking Manchester city centre, and exporting visceral animosity with their travelling support, wherever they go.  Celtic followers on the other hand, win awards for their travelling support.  Compare and contrast.  Not only are the former “Old Firm” not two sides of the same coin, they’re not even the same currency.  We only have one bad penny, that keeps turning up again and again.

This blog has been prompted by the mailing of live parcel bombs to Neil Lennon, Trish Godman MSP and Paul McBride QC.

Breaking News: It has been reported on Sky News that former Labour Minister Brian Wilson, was also among the targets.

PS. I should point out that despite my name inferring that I could be, I am not a Celtic supporter (Airdrie United are my team), and I am not a Catholic.  I do however live in Glasgow, and as such am entitled to my opinion on this.  I just wish others would get off the fence and say what they think too.


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Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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