Singing from a tired hymn sheet

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POLICE Scotland have become embroiled in the use of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish chants —which has also seen Rangers FC forced to close a section of their stadium by governing body UEFA—after it was alleged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that a senior police officer sang ‘the Billy Boys’ while interviewing a Catholic witness.

The allegations came to light as David Grier, one of the Duff and Phelps administrators who briefly held control at Ibrox before the liquidation of Rangers, sues Police Scotland for £2million. The suit saw Detective Chief Inspector Jim Robertson named as the police officer who allegedly sang the racist and sectarian song at a Catholic witness.

While Police Scotland responded that no such complaint had been made to them, Mr Grier’s legal team were explicit in the allegation they made in court.

“That a police officer considers that it may be appropriate to sing sectarian songs (‘Hello, hello, we are the Billy Boys’) during a fraud inquiry defies belief,” his representatives said.

A Police Scotland official said of the claim: “We have received no formal complaint about these allegations.”

Punishment
The song is also suspected of being one of the chants responsible for the closure of at least 3000 seats at Ibrox Stadium (above) as punishment for racist and sectarian chanting by the home crowd.

The punishment came following the UEFA Europa League tie between Rangers and Gibraltarian side St Joseph’s and several previous sanctions which have now resulted in the stand closure. Future indiscretions may result in a full stadium closure or even expulsion from European competition.

The incident has sparked a debate within the Rangers support about how appropriate their present songbook is—though many have rightly questioned the fact that a willingness to host such a debate has only become widespread following a serious UEFA sanction. Such a debate appeared unlikely when the only opposition to such songs was that they are fundamentally anti-Irish and anti-Catholic.

Time to act
Call It Out: The Campaign Against Anti-Catholic Bigotry and Anti-Irish Racism told The Irish Voice that it is time the Scottish Government began to the take the racism and bigotry aimed at the Irish Catholic community of Scotland seriously. A spokesperson for the campaign outlined the deep-rooted nature of such racism and bigotry in spite of efforts at eliminating sectarianism in Scotland —efforts which have been made despite the repeated information provided by Irish community representatives and others which clearly demonstrates that biggest hate crime issue which exists in Scotland today is one of anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism.

“It is notable that within the last week or so we have the sanctions by UEFA on Rangers Football Club for singing a racist song—that has been acknowledged as such by the Scottish courts for some time—but which is regularly sung en masse by the home crowd at Ibrox, and not just by a ‘minority,’” the spokesperson said. “We then have the shocking revelation that a senior police officer sang an anti-Catholic song while interviewing a Catholic witness. Taken together, what this shows is that anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism is alive and well in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government can continue to peddle platitudes about how it wishes Scottish society was or it can listen to the Irish/Catholic community and begin to address how it actually is.”

Statement
In their official club statement Rangers announced the UEFA ruling that racist and sectarian singing had occurred and vowed to ‘do its best to restrict the impact to offending supporters.’

“UEFA has ruled that a group of Rangers supporters were guilty of racist behaviour—which includes sectarian singing—during the match against St Joseph’s at Ibrox on July 18,” the statement said. “Our supporters have been asked repeatedly by the club to refrain from indulging in this, and other forms of unacceptable behaviour. Sadly, the warnings have fallen on deaf ears and the actions of this minority will cause the club and the majority of good and decent Rangers supporters to pay a heavy penalty.

“UEFA has ruled that a section, or sections containing no fewer than 3000 seats must be shut off during the club’s next European match, which is the home match against Legia Warsaw. The area, or areas to be closed will be announced in due course and the club will do its best to restrict the impact to offending supporters.”

dan@theirishvoice.com

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