Lennon tweeted: "Don’t let what happened to me tonight take the shine off a wonderful team performance … I don’t walk alone." Neil Lennon May 2011
20 April 2011 Last updated at 08:58
Parcel bombs sent to Neil Lennon, McBride and Godman
By James Cook Scotland Correspondent, BBC News
"Viable" parcel bombs have been sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two high-profile fans of the Glasgow club, sources have told the BBC.
Sources said the liquid-based devices, sent in the past month, appear to have been intended to "kill or maim".
Mr Lennon's lawyer, Paul McBride QC, and former deputy presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, Trish Godman, were the other two people targeted.
The devices were found at various locations in the west of Scotland.
Sources close to the investigation indicated they were rudimentary and did not appear to have been made by someone with paramilitary training in bomb-making.
Earlier this week, media organisations, including the BBC, had agreed to a police request not to broadcast details of the bomb incidents while officers carried out inquires.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Let us be quite clear - there is a major police investigation under way to ensure that the individual or individuals concerned are identified and apprehended, and then brought to book with the full force of the law.
"We will not tolerate this sort of criminality in Scotland, and as an indication of the seriousness with which we view these developments the Cabinet sub-committee met last Saturday to ensure that the police investigation has every possible support to come to a successful conclusion."
The first suspect package was intercepted by the Royal Mail in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, on 26 March and was addressed to Mr Lennon at Celtic's training ground in nearby Lennoxtown.
Two days later a device was delivered to Labour politician Ms Godman's constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire. Her staff were suspicious of the package and contacted Strathclyde Police.
Detectives initially treated the two parcels as "elaborate hoaxes" designed to cause distress rather than serious injury but further analysis has led to them being reclassified as "viable explosive devices".
The third package was addressed to Mr McBride at the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh.
It is believed to have been posted in Ayrshire before being found in a letter box by a postal worker on Friday and taken to a Royal Mail sorting office in Kilwinning, where police were contacted.
Detectives are also investigating another package addressed to Neil Lennon which was found at a sorting office in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, on 4 March but this has not been confirmed as an explosive device.
It is understood that specialist anti-terrorist officers are involved in the investigation but a source close to the inquiry said they were "not linking this to any terrorist organisation".
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, said that made sense. "I think in terms of the main loyalist terror organisations that are now on ceasefire and say they've decommissioned, I think they'd be frankly embarrassed by this kind of thing," he said.
"They would regard it as a thing of the past and rather as an irritant and an embarrassment to loyalism so I suspect it's an individual or individuals who maybe had bomb-making experience in the past who are disgruntled and looking for hate figures."
For the past decade Neil Lennon has been such a figure.
The 39-year-old Catholic from Lurgan, County Armagh, has endured threats, abuse and violence.
He stopped playing international football for Northern Ireland in 2002 after a death threat, said to be from loyalist paramilitaries.
Lennon has also been the victim of a street attack in Glasgow and several other death threats since joining Celtic in 2000.
In January this year bullets addressed to the Celtic manager were intercepted at a sorting office in Glasgow. They appeared to have been sent from an address in Northern Ireland. Media coverage
The BBC has been told that the three individuals appear to have been targeted after they featured, on separate occasions, in media coverage.
Mr McBride is one of the highest-profile QCs in Scotland and a well-known Celtic fan.
He has acted for the club and Mr Lennon on several occasions during disputes with the Scottish Football Association (SFA).
The advocate has also been highly critical of the SFA in its dealings with Mr Lennon and Celtic.
Ms Godman has a lower public profile than Mr Lennon or Mr McBride but is well known in political circles as an avid Celtic fan.
Until dissolution of the Scottish Parliament last month, she was deputy presiding officer and the Labour MSP for West Renfrewshire.
On her last day as an MSP she was pictured in the Holyrood chamber wearing a Celtic football top.
Rangers and Celtic meet for the final time this season at Ibrox this weekend in a match which could prove crucial in deciding the Scottish Premier League title.
It is understood that senior police officers are concerned about a potential rise in tension ahead of the game on Easter Sunday.
The rivalry between the two Glasgow clubs - known collectively as the Old Firm - is historically tied up in religion. Celtic were formed in 1888 by Irish Catholic immigrants to raise funds to alleviate poverty in the city's East End. To this day, most Celtic fans come from a Catholic background, while the majority of Rangers fans are Protestants. Controversial match
Last month an ill-tempered Scottish Cup clash between the two sides led to political intervention.
The match saw three red cards, several touch-line and tunnel confrontations and 34 arrests inside Celtic Park and 187 outside.
After the final whistle, Mr Lennon and Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist were involved in a confrontation.
Strathclyde Police requested a Scottish government-led summit after describing scenes at the game, which Celtic won 1-0, as "shameful".
Both clubs subsequently agreed to an action plan to tackle Old Firm-related disorder.
The fallout from the controversial match continued, however, when the Celtic manager subsequently received a ban for his actions.
McCoist had an initial two-match ban overturned, while two of his players, El-Hadji Diouf and Madjid Bougherra, were fined over their actions after the sendings off.
This prompted highly-critical comments from Mr McBride towards the SFA.
The advocate accused the organisation of being "dysfunctional", "dishonest" and "biased".
In response the governing body described the QC's remarks as "wild" and "inaccurate" and threatened to sue for defamation.
The BBC understands there have since been moves by both sides to resolve the matter out of court.
Rangers v Celtic: dangerous fires of hatred kindled by words spoken in haste
Telegraph April 2011
If it were not for the fact that the reality so obviously exceeds the analogy, one might observe that the story of the devices mailed to Neil Lennon, Paul McBride and Trish Godman was an item to be handled as delicately a suspect package. Perhaps it is still worth saying as much.
As is now well known, Strathclyde Police asked for a voluntary news blackout when reporters first contacted them to confirm that the Celtic
manager had been targeted by a mail bomber. Both this correspondent and this newspaper were party to the agreement, on the explicit understanding that - in a world where the merest wisp of a rumour is liable to be rendered as absolute fact via the alchemy of blogs and Tweets - such a self-denying ordinance might not be sustainable for long.
It goes against all the instincts of a trained journalist to hold back on a story, especially when it is news that is guaranteed to be of immense interest far beyond the usual boundaries of a localised football rivalry, however intense.
Speaking from the point of view of a newspaperman who has worked for daily papers since I was in my teens, I can testify that when a journalist breaks a big story, the mingling of satisfaction and euphoria is much the same as the exultation a striker experiences from scoring yet another match-winning goal.
In this instance, the police had asked for time to pursue their investigation for two reasons - one being to reduce the chance that the would-be bomber’s actions could spawn imitators and the other being to maintain as calm an atmosphere as possible until this Sunday’s Old Firm league derby at Ibrox could be got safely out of the way.
Sometimes when such requests are made, scepticism - that invaluable journalistic instinct - comes to the fore. “The cops haven’t a clue and are playing for time,” is a common thought.
And there are episodes when such disbelief is entirely justified. On other occasions - this being one, it was judged by those who were asked to hold back on the story - there was a powerful case for a degree of restraint. In a season which has featured six Old Firm derbies already, the accumulation of these collisions has generated a crackling in the air.
Common sense might insist that it would be in the interests of civil order - as well as that of others who might be targeted by whoever is sending the devices - to do nothing to prompt the thundercloud to break. However, as I say, embargoes on such stories are always fragile and, in this case it was surprising that silence was actually maintained until the middle of this week.
Now the Old Firm must engage in a contest at Ibrox on Sunday, played out before 52,000 spectators who are fully aware that, but for the vigilance of others, the Celtic manager has been the target of a device intended to leave him injured, maimed or even dead.
Between now and the game there will be pleas for the fans to exercise restraint. Such requests might also be extended to those who have rushed to hang their agendas on this game like so many coats on a shaky peg.
At the time of writing, we do not know who is responsible for these packages or where they originate. And despite the fact that the intended recipients are linked by the fact that they are all prominently connected to Celtic in one way or another, we cannot be sure of the motive for targeting them.
One would assume that it is very likely to be sectarian in nature, of course, and the product of a profoundly warped individual but, if precedent is any guide, the chances are that he - and it is almost certain to be a male perpetrator - is sitting alone at a kitchen table or in a garden shed, inexpertly assembling his menacing devices.
He might have a football allegiance or he might not. He could have nurtured some long-standing grievance that has festered into hatred or perhaps some recent, unfathomable event might have tipped him into a rage - what, after all, had a class of five-year-olds at Dunblane Primary School done to Thomas Hamilton to provoke his rampage?
Whatever the truth, everything else is guesswork at the moment and it is always worth repeating that inflammatory statements or assumptions can do more damage than an explosive parcel that is intercepted before it reaches its target.
At any event, we have been here before and in much bloodier circumstances. On March 19, 1988 two British Army corporals found their car marooned in the funeral procession of an IRA volunteer.
In one of the most bestial and harrowing incidents of the Troubles, they were dragged from their vehicle, beaten almost senseless and then stabbed and shot to death, a scene played out on national news bulletins with footage from an Army helicopter.
The next day Rangers were due to play Celtic at Ibrox and - the fixture being played on a Sunday with large contingents travelling from Northern Ireland to support both sides – there were fears that very serious violence might erupt at the game.
I got to the stadium four hours before kick-off while bomb squad sniffer dogs were being guided through the stands. The atmosphere, however, far from being tense and incendiary, was notably muted.
Celtic won 2-1 - and went on to take the title in the club’s centenary year - after what was, by common consent, one of the quietest Glasgow derbies in years.
In these past few weeks a twisted perception of the world has been visited on three public figures in Scotland. The most encouraging outcome on Sunday would be that - as in 1988 - a saner reality will impose itself on 52,000 people aware that acting out a tribal rivalry is not at all the same as pursuing it to what would be a very bitter end.
22 April 2011 Last updated at 02:16 Paul McBride attacks Celtic bomb 'terrorists and thugs'
Lennon parcel bomb 'appalling act' says David Cameron (2011)
David Cameron has described parcel bombs being sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two prominent supporters of the club as "an appalling act".
The prime minister, who is visiting Scotland ahead of next month's Holyrood election, said police would be given every help to catch those involved.
The devices were addressed to Mr Lennon, Paul McBride QC and former Labour MSP Trish Godman.
Police described them as "viable" and designed to "kill or maim".
Mr Cameron told the BBC: "Any assistance the Strathclyde Police need the Strathclyde Police shall get because this is an absolutely appalling act.
"The most important thing is that the police pursue it with every piece if vigour they have and get to grips and find the person who is responsible for it and [ensure] they are severely punished.
He added: "It is a reminder of the appalling sectarianism that exists in some people's minds, even as we actually deal with it quite effectively in Northern Ireland, it's still a problem and it must be sought out and crushed."
The devices sent to Mr Lennon, Mr McBride and Ms Godman were found at various locations in the west of Scotland.
The first device was intercepted by the Royal Mail in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, on 26 March and was addressed to Mr Lennon at Celtic's training ground in nearby Lennoxtown.
Two days later, a device was delivered to Labour politician Ms Godman's constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire. Her staff were suspicious and contacted Strathclyde Police.
The third package was addressed to Mr McBride at the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh.
It is believed to have been posted in Ayrshire, before being found in a letter box by a postal worker on Friday and taken to a Royal Mail sorting office in Kilwinning, where police were contacted.
Detectives are also investigating another package addressed to Neil Lennon which was found at a sorting office in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, on 4 March but this has not been confirmed as an explosive device.
The developments represent a serious escalation in threats to Celtic employees in recent months.
Lennon, and players Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn, all three of whom are Catholics from Northern Ireland, were sent bullets through the post earlier this year.
Strathclyde Police confirmed that extra security was put in place for those Celtic board members and players who were at Rugby Park on Wednesday night for the club's SPL match against Kilmarnock.
The force confirmed that security advice had been given to members of the board and high-profile supporters.
Strathclyde Police also confirmed that an investigation was ongoing into pages on social networking sites which hosted offensive or threatening material aimed at the Celtic manager.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that a live bullet was sent to the official residence of Scotland's most senior Roman catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, ahead of the Pope's visit to Scotland last year.
The incident, which has not being linked to the parcel bomb or bullet threats to Celtic-related figures, was not reported at the time.
Club sacks teenage star for anti-Lennon Twitter rant
Published Date: 21 April 2011
A YOUNG footballer has been sacked after a vile, foul-mouthed online rant, in which he wished Celtic boss Neil Lennon had been blown up by a mail bomb.
Berwick Rangers player Kieran Bowell posted his comments on social networking site Twitter after it emerged Lennon had been sent two deadly devices.
Bowell uploaded his remark yesterday morning. The teenager wrote: "Wish that parcel bomb ****ing killed neil lennon the little ****!"
The under-17s captain quickly removed the comment and then deleted his page after being messaged by sickened fans.
But horrified Berwick bosses tore up his contract after being swamped with complaints from disgusted supporters who had taken screen grabs of Bowell's remark.
A spokesman for the Scottish Third Division side confirmed Bowell had been shown the door at Shielfield Park.
He said: "It has been brought to the attention of Berwick Rangers that a young footballer on an amateur contract with the club has made a comment on a social networking site relating to the posting of a parcel bomb to Neil Lennon.
"This comment was completely unacceptable and, as a result, his contract has been terminated with immediate effect.
"The player has offered an unreserved apology, and accepts that his conduct is outwith the attitudes and behaviour expected from any person associated with Berwick Rangers at any level.
"We very much regret any offence caused by his actions."
Labour's Scottish justice spokesman, Richard Baker, said: "I think the timing and the threats that have been made towards Neil Lennon are of a particular concern, but in any event these are sick and dangerous.
"They represent in my view offensive comments that the police need to look into very seriously."
"I hope our courts are able to issue appropriate punishments and penalties."
Central Scotland Conservative candidate Margaret Mitchell said: "The internet is a great power for good but it can also be a power … for quite a lot of sinister things.
"I would hope there is some way to monitor this activity and to hold people accountable for this kind of content. It's not banter in any way shape or form and it can't be encouraged."
- Last Updated: 20 April 2011 10:51 PM
- Source: The Scotsman
- Location: Edinburgh
Alex Salmond contacts editors to aid Neil Lennon explosive device media black out Stephen Lepitak(Thedrum)
Media / Scotland
Following the agreement by Scotland’s media to invoke a voluntary news black out on the story that Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other public figures were sent nail bombs, it transpires that Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond personally contacted editors to ask them to hold or extend the embargo.
Yesterday it was revealed that Scotland’s media chose not to report on the explosive devices being sent to Lennon, as well as prominent fans, QC Paul McBride and Labour MSP Trish Godman, when reports of the bombs first emerged over the weekend.
This was partly because Strathclyde Police communications director Rob Shorthouse had contacted editors at some of Scotland’s most prominent newspapers and media outlets to ask them to hold off on reporting the story to avoid hampering the investigation. This was agreed to and at a meeting being held at Strathclyde Police headquarters on Monday 19 April those present agreed to hold off until Wednesday 20 April.
It is now understood that on the same day First Minister Alex Salmond also contacted editors to thank them for agreeing to the embargo and ask them to either hold firm or extend it.
A further conference call was then held by the editors at midday on Tuesday 20 April, where it was decided that it was in the public interest to warn Celtic fans of the potential risk they faced It was also agreed that no prosecution was imminent and that the embargo was likely to fall. The story was subsequently reported that evening, quickly developing into an international story the next day.
As to the First Minister’s involvement, a spokesperson for the Government, commented: “As an indication of the seriousness with which we view these matters, the Cabinet sub-committee met last Saturday to ensure that the police investigation had every possible support to come to a successful conclusion. The news media were subsequently contacted and asked not to report the incidents at that point to avoid prejudicing the police investigation.”
Said one commentator close to the talks, "It is very unusual for the First Minister to get involved at this level, especially so because he was requesting the media not to cover an issue. His intervention, even in light of the seriousness of this matter raised a a few eyebrows."
Yesterday, Shorthouse discussed the situation surrounding the voluntary media embargo and thanked those involved for their co-operation, describing the situation as ‘unique’ and added that he appreciated that it was a difficult story for the media to sit on.
Neil Lennon is no quitter but this time it goes beyond him
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
A parcel bomb was sent to Neil Lennon
Jim Gracey on how Celtic boss will respond to latest threat now the danger level and risk to others has risen
Bombs and bullets were never far away, growing up in Lurgan in the worst of times. How ironic they never affected the young, unknown Neil Lennon who carried on playing football on the streets of the nationalist Taghnevan estate while mayhem often reigned around.
Now, at the peak of his fame and success, the terror and tribalism he thought he'd risen above and left behind have returned to haunt him.
I've known Neil since he was a raw, 16-year-old kid, trying to make his way as an apprentice at a much less cash-rich and fashionable Manchester City than they are now.
And he has always been a fighter, overcoming adversity every step of the way to become a top player and now manager.
Doubts over his ability to even carve a career in professional football; a crippling back injury that threatened to wreck his dreams, dark bouts of depression, upheaval in his private life, and now this.
Bullets in the post, while frightening and intimidating, pose no physical threat. But a parcel bomb capable of causing injury?
That's taken the vicious and insidious campaign against his person to a level never before seen in British football.
It has moved from downright nasty and unpleasant to sinister, the latest twist amounting to terrorism.
If there was ambivalance before, a tendency to regard the hounding of Lennon as a manifestion of the prejudices of the worst types steeped in historic Old Firm bigotry, an exercise in publicity-seeking from which no real harm would come — and even that is to ignore the strain placed on Lennon and his family — then it is time to think again.
Those responsible require a response from the law in proportion to their actions . . . they are no different to the fanatics posing a threat in the name of a different religion. They need to be taken as seriously and similar security resources applied to tracking them down.
You can go to jail for as much as joking about a bomb at an airport... a real one in the post demands likewise.
But what of Neil Lennon? Can he handle it? How will he handle it? The Lenny I know would never shirk from a fight or a threat to his own person. He'd meet it head-on, as fiery red-heads of his ilk tend to do, with no thought for himself.
But these are unseen enemies he cannot confront.
And when the safety of family and friends is also endangered, he will consider that a different matter entirely.
It would go against every Neil Lennon grain to back down; to walk away from his dream job, at the behest of shadowy cowards not fit to lace his boots and who most certainly would not tackle him face to face.
What Lenny will look for is not so much a guarantee of his own safety but that those closest to him are not also at risk.
His decisions and future as Celtic manager hinge on the answers. All those who know and respect Lenny will vouch that he isn't the type to be cowed.
They will hope he carries on, not least to see his managerial ambitions fulfilled, and so that those who resort to threats and terror do not win, a mindset of which we are all too familiar.
It’s a convenient attitude to accept when you are not in the firing line. When your nearest and dearest become the collateral damage, no job is worth the candle.
That is what the Neil Lennon I know is now weighing up.
Police swoop on Old Firm internet hate suspects in dawn raids
Apr 24 2011 Exclusive by Lauren Crooks, Sunday Mail
THIS is the moment when police seized a suspect accused of the internet hate campaign against bomb-threat Celtic boss Neil Lennon.
Officers swooped on the home of Stephen Birrell, 27, in a dawn raid yesterday as they hunt the bigots posting sinister threats and abuse on message boards.
He was led away in handcuffs from the house as officers seized his mobile phone and laptop computer.
A specialist unit - which usually targets online gang activity - carried out the raid in Dalmarnock, Glasgow.
They also arrested David Craig, 23, at a house in Paisley as they move against a list of 50 suspects accused of posting vile bigotry on the web.
Unit boss Super intendent Kirk Kinnell warned: "You have nowhere to hide.
"At both locations we recovered mobile phones and laptops. We have detained individuals who will be taken before the courts.
"These relate to abuse posted on social networking sites which are hate-filled abusive comments specifically directed towards Neil Lennon - both are racial and sectarian.
"My hope is that this action will encourage people to delete their comments from these sites, stop putting comments on, have a look at themselves and realise that, if they continue to do this, we will come after them.
"Some people feel they are anonymous on the internet . Perhaps these people feel that they can put these comments on, perhaps they feel they are untouchable. We're here to tell them - you're very touchable."
Yesterday's early-morning raids came on the eve of today's Old Firm SPL clash at Ibrox.
Strathclyde Police last night refused to confirm the identity of the men arrested but chiefs have vowed to weed out dozens more bigots who hide behind fake names to peddle threats and abuse on hate-filled message boards.
Today police plan to arrest at least one Celtic fan suspected of posting racist comments about Rangers and Senegal striker El-Hadji Diouf.
Supt Kinnell said: "This is the first operation we have mounted to arrest individuals for sectarian and racial abuse and it relates to sites where postings have been made approximately six to eight weeks ago.
"That is roughly the amount of time it takes from the initial capture of evidence to gather all the evidence which allows us to go to the front door of the individual.
"In general terms, we are finding that some of the people that posted hate-filled comments have been one-off. Other people involved have posted similar comments in the af termath of the events of last week.
"We continue to monitor the sites and the same people to see if their behaviour is getting worse or diminishing.
"The bottom line is this - if we see anything, we will capture it and come after you."
Some of the evidence shown to the Sunday Mail featured one apparent Celtic fan urging Rangers bosses to "send Diouf back to the jungle".
Others posted images of Lennon covered in bullet holes, while others used savage sectarian slurs. The hate peddlers range from schoolboys to middle-aged men.
They have been tracked down through internet accounts and website registrations. Charges are likely to range from breach of the peace to incitements to racially aggravated violence.
Supt Kinnell says he has the support of the majority of Old Firm fans and the general public.
He added: "More and more, we are seeing fans of both teams reporting so-called fans they don't consider to be good representatives for the club.
"They are happy to come forward and say these people aren't real fans.
"People have had enough and this behaviour is just not acceptable in this day and age.
"The public have asked us to convey this message because they won't tolerate this vile hatred any more."
The two men are expected to appear in court on Tuesday.
Despite the police activity, a group called Hunt And Kill Neil Lennon was still active on Facebook last night.
The raids came as detectives issued a fresh appeal for information as they probe four parcel bombs sent to high-profile targets, including Lennon.
Other intended recipients included Lennon's lawyer Paul McBride QC and Celtic-supporting former Labour MSP Trish Godman.
Police last night said they wanted to trace a young man and woman seen in Montgomerie Terrace, that there are still people out there with vital information regarding this crime who, for whatever reason, have still not come forward to police.
"I am again re-appealing to anyone with any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem to them, to contact us.
"Please let us decide whether that information is important to our inquiries and take the appropriate action.
"Officers are continuing to follow up all lines of inquiry and I would like to reassure the public that information can be treated in confidence."
The first bomb - addressed to Lennon - was found on March 4 at the sorting off ice in Saltcoats.
Later that month, another suspect package addressed to Lennon was found at Kirkintilloch sorting office.
POLITICAL RIVALS UNITED IN THEIR CALL FOR FIVE-YEAR SENTENCES
The leaders of Labour and the SNP yesterday vowed to back plans for Old Firm internet bigots to face up to five years in jail.
Offenders who make death threats online or incite religious hatred currently face maximum sentences of six months.
But Alex Salmond and Iain Gray have promised to back tougher penalties proposed by Crown Office officials.
First Minister Salmond said: "Sectarianism was, is and always will be totally unacceptable. And we must have a zero tolerance approach.
"We will take forward a number of measures recently recommended by Scotland's Law Officers, including increased maximum sentences for sectarian offences - from six months to five years."
Labour leader Gray said: "There is a groundswell of public support for taking effective action to tackle sectarianism.
"There is no room for complacency. Bullets were sent to Neil Lennon earlier this season and now it has escalated to parcel bombs.
"This is a warning of what can happen if we try to ignore the problem.
"Tackling sectarianism is unfinished business for the Scottish Parliament."
Graham Spiers Commentary
Last updated May 13 2011 12:01AM
It is getting harder to chronicle the prejudice and venom being directed towards Neil Lennon – the toll of it just seems relentless. But, even given this context, Wednesday night’s attack on the Celtic manager by a supporter at Tynecastle will remain a shocking and vivid reminder of what Lennon is having to deal with in Glasgow.
For those of us covering the match it was all the more startling, given that the Tynecastle pressbox is right behind the technical areas. Out of nowhere this big, lumbering bruiser came hurtling from the enclosure towards Lennon, grabbing the Celtic manager and attempting to assault him. Police, stewards and others frantically ran to intervene, while Lennon did his level best to exact his own revenge on his assailant.
It was a shocking moment, in a shocking season for Scottish football. It also only reinforced a very ugly impression that, for a number of different and dubious reasons, Lennon remains someone whom many in Scotland love to hate.
It would be wearying to go back over all the threats he has had to deal with. But the upshot of Wednesday’s attack, on top of the bullets, parcel bombs and other packages sent his way, must surely make Lennon and Celtic think again about whether it is worth it having him in place as the club’s manager.
For some, the sheer poison that accompanies Lennon being in the Celtic job is now getting too much. Might the club now say, enough is enough, we need to protect this guy and take him out of the firing line? Or might Lennon, even for his family’s sake, let alone his own, conclude that it is time to demit office?
I don’t believe Lennon, even now, will walk away from Celtic. He loves his job, and the club and its supporters adore him. And, maybe in a perverse kind of way, Lennon remains largely unfazed by what is going on around him. His focus on the Celtic job is remarkable, and he certainly doesn’t appear to be scared. He is, however, perfectly entitled to be.
It would be a wretched commentary on Scottish football and Scotland in general were Lennon to leave Celtic because of this lunacy in our midst. If this is the point we have reached — a football manager resigning due to threats to his life — then Scottish society must have arrived at a very dark place. And this is to say nothing, were Lennon to walk away, of the unspeakable victory it would hand to those who carry out these deeds.
Some, rightly, have been citing Lennon’s own personality amid all of this. That topic is not irrelevant, given the effect it has on those who want to use violence as their means of expression.
Lennon is no shirker. He is no shrinking violet. He stands his ground, in verbal or physical argument. He is also provocative. In recent weeks he has shown a propensity to shoot from the lip, in a way that most other managers would shy away from.
Lennon’s comments, for instance, about other teams’ lack of effort against Rangers in the race for the title flag this weekend, have irked quite a few fans and coaches beyond the Celtic faithful.
And yet no one, surely, could cite any of this as an excuse for what has happened to Lennon.
Twenty-five years ago a young Graeme Souness became the player-manager of Rangers and in many ways was just as outspoken as Lennon. Souness revelled in mouthing off about other clubs, referees and about the SFA. Like Lennon, he had a cockiness and an arrogance about him.
But Souness never got sent parcel bombs or bullets. He never became the subject of death threats or physical assaults, such as what we witnessed at Tynecastle the other night. This has been a poison that has almost exclusively been reserved for Lennon.
Bigotry is never far from people’s lips in this situation, but that word also has to be used carefully in the current context. Scotland is not a country riven by bigotry — we should say that emphatically. Moreover, the attack on Lennon in Edinburgh was most likely not a sectarian-fuelled attack. This will be established soon enough, but it looked more like a Heart of Midlothian fan nursing an insane and deep-seated dislike of Lennon.
But the old rule applies: what bigots we do have in Scotland are given a handy stage by the Old Firm on which to perform. Scottish football has provided an excuse and an arena for undesirables to go about their business.
And, whether it is due to religious or racial prejudice, or sheer physical malice, Neil Lennon remains the most persistent target.
Neil Lennon would be forgiven for walking away after Hearts attack4
may 2011, The Guardian
After the Tynecastle assault just how much more can Neil Lennon take as Celtic's manager?
"The fact I walk out on to a football pitch seems to provoke a lot of people. Just my very presence. I don't have to do a lot to get the juices flowing."Neil Lennon
made those comments with a smile on his face to the written media the day before Celtic
's trip to face Hearts at Tynecastle.
Some 50 minutes into the game itself, Lennon had learned what serious dangers can present themselves when football supporters have a problem controlling their emotions. The Celtic manager was not hurt in the attack which provided merely the latest ugly chapter in this, a poisonous Scottish football season, but his shaken state was apparent to all.
If it did not exist before, there is now a legitimate question over whether the 39-year-old Northern Irishman will continue in his present role into next season. Lennon has a partner and young son to consider given the intense security which surrounds his every move; a physical attack at his place of work takes things to another level of risk entirely.
"Of course, nobody could blame him," said Johan Mjallby, Lennon's assistant on the prospect of the manager walking away from this madness. "Nobody could blame him even if this [last night's attack at Hearts] didn't happen. It is too early now to say how Neil will react."
Levels of antagonism surrounding matches between Hearts and Celtic have increased markedly, with events at Tynecastle the only indicator needed that such sentiment has gone too far.
"There was a funny atmosphere, a bit of hostility," acknowledged the Hearts manager, Jim Jefferies, of the Tynecastle scene even before Lennon was targeted in such a high-profile manner.
Hearts had nothing to play for in the Scottish Premier League game – third place for them had been secured 24 hours before Celtic's visit – and as the visitors cantered towards victory there seemed to be little to rile someone sitting in the stands.
Yet the visit of Celtic for some reason brings out the worst elements of the Edinburgh club's support, with Lennon a focal point for their animosity. In his playing days, Lennon was vociferously taunted by Hearts fans – as, equally, have several Rangers players been down the years – with one punter landing on top of a dug-out in an attempt to "get to" the then-Celtic captain.
Tynecastle has never been a tranquil place, but Hearts have been shamed by last night's trouble.
Lennon has a straightforward theory about why he is subject to loathing at every apparent turn. That is, he is a high-profile Roman Catholic in Scotland; sufficient motivation for abuse to rain down on him at football grounds across the country.
The simplicity of that argument renders it useful but others have received no such attention. Lennon, moreover, was not singled out in such a consistent way during a generally successful time as a Celtic player. Despite being assaulted in a Glasgow street in 2008, the irony is that Lennon spoke of missing the city when he briefly departed, for spells at Nottingham Forest and Wycombe Wanderers.
Lennon's touchline manner often does not lend itself to peace and tranquillity but no reasonable person can argue that what the Celtic manager has had to deal with this season has not gone beyond reasonable grounds.
From bullets in the post to viable explosive devices, Lennon has had to encounter more security episodes than anybody ever involved in the Scottish game. Earlier this week, it was revealed that seven arrests had been made outside Celtic's training centre after a gun alert.
The common denominator in such matters is Lennon. Football matters routinely dictate whether a manager remains in post into a new campaign; at Celtic, there is a wider and more dangerous issue at stake. Someone, somewhere, has got to draw a line in the sand.
Why is this man so hated?
By Roddy Forsyth, Irish Indie
Friday May 13 2011
What is it about Neil Lennon that incites people to acts that effectively amount to terrorism?
Even in casual conversation, one hears extraordinarily polarised opinions about him, like this, yesterday, from one of Lennon's Northern Irish compatriots: "Sure, he's a cheeky b*****d -- the kind of kid you'd slap in the playground."
Lennon, though, is not the target of metaphorical smacks, but of real and vicious assaults in the street, packets of live bullets (another bullet arrived at Celtic Park yesterday, addressed to the manager) and, most recently, a nail bomb, which would have found its way to him via the mail had it not been for the vigilance of others along its route.
And let us not forget the death threats expressed through graffiti at his family home, anonymous telephone calls and truly disgusting website images. Now we have come to the stage where any fan of an opposing club, at any ground at any time, has to be considered a potential assailant.
That's the way the American Secret Service
operates around the US president and it is astounding to think that it is what will have to happen with Lennon if the unfathomable rage against him continues unabated. Too far-fetched?
Well, Hearts -- or whoever was in charge of security at Tynecastle -- must have thought so, otherwise there would have been some semblance of a protective cordon around the Celtic manager.
Meanwhile, it was put to me on breakfast radio yesterday morning that "many people would say he (Lennon) brings it on himself?" I don't doubt for a moment that many people do, partly because the Celtic manager has engaged in some very public confrontations this season.
One has only to think back to Tynecastle in November, when Celtic lost 2-0 and Lennon treated the fourth official and the referee to a barrage of abuse so vitriolic that he was not only sent to the stand but charged with excessive misconduct.
Then there was the angry square-up to Ally McCoist
in full view of the TV cameras at the end of the Scottish Cup replay with Rangers at Parkhead on March 2, for which Lennon subsequently apologised, saying that he had fallen below the standards expected of a Celtic manager.
And, days after it was revealed that an explosive package had been intercepted en route to him, and 1,000 extra police deployed on the streets of Glasgow
, he could not resist cupping his ears in a sarcastic gesture of defiance of the Rangers fans who were vociferously taunting him at full-time.
Taken together, there is the basis of an indictment against him for incendiary behaviour -- and not necessarily of the heedless sort.
After all, it was Lennon himself who said -- echoed in comments by his assistant Johan Mjallby -- that he "knew what he was doing" at times when others concluded that he had let temper get the better of reason.
Furthermore, Lennon made it clear when he took over from Tony Mowbray
that he thought his predecessor had been far too docile in his pitchside manner.
So, if there is a calculating element to some of his antics, the Parkhead manager has to accept that there will be consequences, including condemnation.
As one former Celtic manager remarked recently: "He still has to understand that everything he does is scrutinised and can and will be used against him."
Yet, at what point does Lennon's behaviour diverge from the common run of competitive frustration or even the familiar combative and manipulative actions of managers at the very pinnacle of the game -- think of Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson? Frankly, it doesn't.
Were Lennon in charge at, say, Crewe Alexandra
or Leicester City, two of the clubs for whom he played before he made the fateful decision to follow Martin O'Neill to Celtic, there would likely be a certain critique of his style -- it might even be thought of as admirably committed, if sometimes a tad excessive -- but nothing like the cyclone of antagonism it generates when witnessed in Scotland.
Lennon recently ventured the opinion that the relentless torrent of opprobrium directed his way was purely and simply because he is an Irish Catholic in charge of Celtic.
The contrast that immediately sprang to mind was with O'Neill, whose credentials were identical but who was on the receiving end of nothing more harmful in his private life than the occasional barbed comment from Rangers fans.
Yet the two men are perceived in fundamentally varying ways: O'Neill the technically fluent midfielder in Brian Clough
's elegant Nottingham Forest side; Lennon the gladiatorial, sometimes snarling ball-winner for O'Neill at Celtic.
There is a more fundamental difference -- almost primordial -- between the pair. O'Neill is urbane, ironic and subtle. Lennon is vividly expressive and rough hewn.
In fact, Lennon's face bears a startling resemblance to that of Vincent Van Gogh in the artist's late self-portraits. It is a visual paradox that Lennon should bear such a likeness to the son of a Dutch Protestant pastor that they could easily pass as brothers.
Yet he hasn't actually won anything yet. What in God's name can we expect if he manages to establish Celtic as the dominant force in Scottish football?
We cannot retreat from the possibility that the ambition that animates Lennon most could unleash a reaction too dangerous for him and his family to contemplate.
What manager could take that risk? (© Daily Telegraph, London
- Roddy Forsyth
Telegraph May 2011
March 1, 2001
Lennon, who had signed for Celtic three months earlier, considers retiring from international football after being booed by Northern Ireland fans during defeat by Norway at Windsor Park in Belfast.
Aug 21, 2002
Pulls out of the Northern Ireland team on the evening of a match against Cyprus after receiving a death threat from a paramilitary group. The threat was made by telephone to the BBC
Attacked close to his home in Glasgow’s West End after stopping in his car at a red light and being abused. Two students are later fined after admitting a breach of the peace.
Sept 1, 2008
Requires hospital treatment after being attacked and knocked unconscious in the West End after Celtic’s Old Firm derby defeat. Two Rangers fans are later jailed for assault.
Jan 5, 2011
A package addressed to Lennon, by now the Celtic manager, and containing bullets is intercepted at a sorting office in Mallusk, County Antrim. Player Niall McGinn is also targeted.
March 2, 2011
Involved in heated exchanges with Rangers player El-Hadji Diouf and assistant manager Ally McCoist on the touchline during Celtic’s Scottish Cup win at Parkhead. Receives four-match ban
April 19, 2011
It emerges that Royal Mail intercepted a total of two ‘viable’ liquid-based parcel bombs addressed to Lennon. High-profile Celtic fans Trish Godman and Paul McBride were also targeted.
May 11, 2011
Lennon is attacked by a fan on the touchline during Celtic’s 3-0 win against Hearts at Tynecastle. The fan climbs out of the Hearts section to accost Lennon and is then taken away by police.
Celtic Football Club Statement
By: Newsroom Staff on 12 May, 2011 14:59
FOLLOWING the events during the game against Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday night, Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell has made the following statement.
“Last night’s appalling attack on Neil Lennon brings shame on Scottish football and again highlights the fact that Scottish society must address fundamental and serious issues which lead to outrages of this kind.
"Apart from last night’s events, this week alone we have seen seven people arrested at our Training Ground following an alleged firearms incident and I can also confirm that this morning (Thursday) another package arrived at Celtic Park which appears to contain ammunition.This has been removed and taken by Police for further forensic tests.We are the only Club to be the subject of such vile, sustained and relentless attacks.
"It is intolerable that any football club, or individual, going about their lawful business in the name of sport should be subjected to this ongoing campaign of hatred and intimidation. This is Scotland’s shame and it is high time Scotland addressed it.
"Since moving here a decade ago, Neil Lennon has had to endure prejudice and violence both as a player and manager, having suffered no such problems elsewhere.In doing so, he has displayed a strength of character and resilience which deserve respect from all who oppose the campaign of intimidation against him.
"He is a man who is proud to be the Celtic manager and is someone who simply wants to be able to carry out his role in the same way as every other football manager can. Clearly, Neil will continue to receive every support and protection from Celtic Football Club.
"We are deeply appreciative of the intensive police efforts to address the criminal offences that have come to light.All right-minded people will surely condemn these actions but, as a society, we must also address the underlying factors that lead to such behaviour."
Two held in Lennon mail bombs probe Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Two men have been arrested in connection with an investigation into parcel bombs sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and to two high-profile supporters of the club.The men, aged 41 and 43, were detained after officers raided a number of properties in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. Police later said they had been arrested and detained in police custody under the Explosives Substances Act (1883).
It came as a man appeared in court charged with assault after an attack on Lennon at Tynecastle stadium at the Celtic v Hearts game on Wednesday night.
Police were also called to Celtic stadium in Glasgow after a suspect package believed to have contained a bullet and addressed to Lennon was found.
Police launched a major investigation after two bombs were sent to Lennon and one each to lawyer Paul McBride QC and former MSP Trish Godman. A fifth suspect package, addressed to the offices of Cairde Na H'Eireann (Friends of Ireland) in Glasgow, was also intercepted by officers last month.
The two men arrested are expected to appear at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court on Friday.
Football chiefs said the recent incidents had brought shame on Scottish football. Officers arrested a man on Wednesday night after he clambered from the Hearts section of the main stand on to the pitch during a match at Tynecastle stadium in Edinburgh and made towards Lennon.
The manager, who has had to live with round-the-clock security after death threats in the past, was said to have been left "shaken" by the incident.
John Wilson, 26, from Edinburgh, has been charged with breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice and assault aggravated by religious prejudice.
He appeared at a private hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. No plea or declaration was made during the hearing and he was remanded in custody.
Gun drama at Celtic training complex
A firearm alert was sparked at Celtic’s training ground in Lennoxtown
10 May 2011
Seven people have been arrested following a gun alert at Celtic’s Lennoxtown training ground.
Armed police swooped on the multi-million pound complex after it was alleged someone had been spotted with a weapon.
A police helicopter was also brought in to sweep the area.
Five women and two men, one aged 17, were later held outside the centre in East Dunbartonshire, which is used by Celtic players and staff including manager Neil Lennon who has been the target of recent parcel bombs.
The seven arrested were appearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court today in connection with the incident, which happened around 8.30pm on Sunday.
A police spokeswoman said: “Five women, one aged 19 and four, aged 21, along with two men aged 19 and 17, were arrested and are being detained in police custody in connection with an alleged firearms offence.”
Celtic boss Lennon was the target of a parcel bomb sent to Lennoxtown last month.
Ten parcels intended for Celtic-related targets have now been intercepted including six hoaxes.
The latest bomb, found at a Royal Mail centre in Belfast, was posted in Scotland and addressed to Irish republican group Friends of Ireland in Glasgow.
A Celtic spokesman said: “The matter is in the hands of the police.”
The Chief Executive of Celtic Football Club says the touchline attack on manager Neil Lennon shames Scottish society, as it is confirmed a package containing a bullet was also sent to the manager.
Package containing bullet sent to Celtic boss Lennon
Thursday 12 May 2011
The Chief Executive of Celtic Football Club says the touchline attack on manager Neil Lennon shames Scottish society, as it is confirmed a package containing a bullet was also sent to the manager.
Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell made the strongly-worded statement as police were investigating a package containing a bullet that is believed to have been sent to Mr Lennon.
On Wednesday night Mr Lennon was attacked by a man who clambered onto the pitch during Celtic's 3-0 win against Hearts. The man was quickly grappled to the ground by Lennon's assistant and immediately arrested by Lothian and Borders Police.
A 26-year-old, John Wilson from Edinburgh, has been charged with breach of the peace and assault aggravated by religious prejudice.
Northern Irish Catholic Lennon has had death threats in the past and in recent weeks was sent two parcel bombs, as were other high-profile Celtic supporters.
In Ayrshire, police have set up cordons near a number of properties, according to one press report.
In his statement about the attack on Lennon, Peter Lawwell said: "Last night's appalling attack on Neil Lennon brings shame on Scottish football and again highlights the fact that Scottish society must address fundamental and serious issues which lead to outrages of this kind.
"Apart from last night's events, this week alone we have seen seven people arrested at our training ground following an alleged firearms incident and I can also confirm that this morning (Thursday) another package arrived at Celtic Park which appears to contain ammunition. This has been removed and taken by police for further forensic tests. We are the only club to be the subject of such vile, sustained and relentless attacks.
This is Scotland's shame and it is high time Scotland addressed it. Celtic Chief Executive Lawwell
"It is intolerable that any football club, or individual, going about their lawful business in the name of sport should be subjected to this ongoing campaign of hatred and intimidation. This is Scotland's shame and it is high time Scotland addressed it."
Scottish Football Association Chief Executive Stewart Regan, SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster and Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond all condemned the incident.
'Arrests made' over parcel bombs
In a separate police operation launched on Thursday morning in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, two arrests were made in connection with the investigation into the parcel bombs sent to Mr Lennon in recent weeks.
Two parcel bombs were sent to Lennon and one each to lawyer Paul McBride QC and former MSP Trish Godman.
Last month Strathclyde Police said the two packages sent to Lennon, and the two others were "designed to cause real harm to the person who opened them".
A fifth suspect package, addressed to the offices of Cairde Na H'Eireann (Friends of Ireland) in Glasgow, was also intercepted by officers last month.
In March, Mr Salmond called an "Old Firm summit" after violence on and off the field in the a Rangers-Celtic clash threatened the entire future of the fixture.
Interviewed on Channel 4 News, Mr Salmond said that anyone engaging in sectarian displays would "be met with the full force of the law" and "no-one should be under any illusions that anyone who peddles sectarian hate over the internet will be tracked down and dealt with."
The people of Scotland were fed up with such activities, he added. "And the overwhelming bulk of football fans in Scotland are fed up with these people attaching themselves to the beautiful game. So they are going to be dealt with and that is going to happen."
A Sorry State Of Affairs Original Article - Pure Heavy Skinny
In the classic Western Unforgiven Little Bill Daggett lies facing the justice of William Munny’s double barrel rifle. The time has come for Little Bill to answer for his brutal reign of terror. He crumbles. “I don’t deserve this… I was building a house.”
Rangers aren’t quite building a house. They are trying to sell one. The ‘imminent’ takeover featuring Craig Whyte (a proposed takeover that provides more questions than answers to Rangers’ woes) has been dragging on for some weeks now. The gorilla in the room, as Chairman Alistair Johnston put it, revolves around the HMRC case and who gets lumbered with the potential liability of anything between £15M and £90M over the dangerous practice of using Employee Benefit Trust (EBT) payments, according to the varying speculated figures.
Yet, it seems that Rangers have more gorillas in their midst. On Thursday it emerged that UEFA intend to lay additional charges of sectarian songs and chants at the club, this time in their home game against PSV Eindhoven. The club were already preparing their defence against allegations of sectarian chanting in the away leg. The term ‘allegations’ is used loosely in this sense, because the club and their supporters’ representatives have already admitted that sectarian chanting occurred at these fixtures. So, while you have on one hand an acceptance of guilt, Chief Executive Martin Bain continues to use the phrase ‘alleged sectarian chanting’.
He has once again, assumed Rangers’ seemingly default position as being one of outrage. There is a campaign against Rangers. Someone has ‘grassed’ on us? We demand to know who it was. Other clubs do it too. If such a mentality was applied to everyday life, we might as well open the jails and let everyone walk free.
Considering it’s an accusation the fans have levelled at their city rivals for years, it’s ironic how quickly Rangers have taken to the role of persecuted victim. Many aspects of life at Ibrox at present may have unfavourable implications, but the club has been excused sanction for their fans behaviour for so long that, when they are faced with the reality of repercussions for persistent misdemeanours, they throw their hands up in horror. Why? Why us? Why now?
In his statement, Bain has admitted the problem exists. He says that “We have never said that sectarian singing is not a problem”. He further states, “We could not have done more to eradicate sectarian behaviour.”
Could they have done more? Manager Walter Smith’s statement last week asking for fans to stop singing sectarian songs seemed to fudge the issue. He thought that ‘in a modern era it is maybe unacceptable” for the fans to sing sectarian songs, which he seemed to intimate were part of a ‘great tradition’. The urgency to stop referred to the possibility that Rangers could ‘suffer drastic consequences’ and that they should ‘take into account the problems the club have’ and stop singing them.
Is that unequivocal? Certainly, Martin Bain was more forthright. He said that the club’s position on sectarian singing ‘had been made time and time again. We condemn it.’
At last, a straightforward condemnation. But why did they only make such a statement after UEFA were again involved? Did no one hear the singing at the recent League Cup final from the alleged small minority? Alleged is used here because, to this ear, it sounded like the vast majority of Rangers’ support was up to its knees in Fenian blood at several points in the game, while a host of other ditties, mentioning chapels, rosary beads, and the Pope also got an airing.
The philosophical question asks, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a noise? Similarly, if 20,000 Rangers fans sing sectarian songs when there are no UEFA delegates at the game, do they expect no one to hear it? Certainly the Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill didn’t seem to hear it or, if he did, he didn’t seem to mind. But just because MacAskill provided a glowing reference, it shouldn’t have stopped Rangers from taking a stand on their own initiative. It might have counted for something, in their efforts to tackle the problem.
The club ‘has tried everything in its power to eradicate sectarianism’.
Is that the case? To those viewing Rangers from afar, it seems the club operates on a nod and a wink with its supporters. It is small wonder, therefore, that some of them fail to understand why they are now admonished for behaviour that they have always indulged in (indeed, some of which has been enjoyed by boardroom members). And in the corridors of independent arbitrary power, the same nod and a wink enabled Rangers to operate without sanction, with the SFA unable and/or unwilling to put a halt to it. Indeed SFA chief Stewart Regan’s statement last night spoke of ‘dismay’ and how the ‘fans had let the club down on the night’. UEFA opened a door for Regan to demand Rangers fans cease polluting domestic football grounds with their bile, yet he failed to walk through it.
The SFA chief is relatively new to Scotland, but he can’t be unaware of what is sung at every game Rangers play in or, indeed, the background to the case. Rangers were just like any other Scottish football club until they embarked on a policy of religious discrimination that lasted for eight full decades, until Maurice Johnston signed for them in 1989. Since then, they have been like any other equal opportunities employer. They sign and employ people regardless of their race, religion or colour. It had been hoped that after Johnston signed, there would be a dilution of the bigotry from the stands. The fans were later to see an Italian Catholic club captain and a Catholic manager of the club. For some of the fans who burned their season tickets when Johnston signed, these two acts must have been the culmination of all their fears when the club allowed a Catholic ‘in the door’ on that infamous day.
Football, however, is a business and any business must know its market, so Rangers still had to appeal to their large, core support. Over these last 22 years, since Johnston signed, the club have sold ‘sash’ jerseys, orange away tops, removed eggs Benedict from their menus after the current Pope’s succession, sold dinner menus priced at £16.90, and allegedly had a sash design cut into the Ibrox turf by grounds staff. Some of these could easily be dismissed as a bit of a laugh amongst like-minded people, but another way of seeing it would be that this type of ‘banter’ is simply the thin end of the wedge.
The thick end sees the attraction of extremist supporters who have verbally and physically assaulted Celtic manager Neil Lennon – a Catholic from Northern Ireland – leaving him unconscious in the street, and he and his family under the type of 24-hour protection normally reserved for a Cabinet minister. In case anyone is under the illusion it is a response to Lennon’s perceived personality, two Northern Irish Catholics playing for Celtic also received death threats in the form of bullets through the post, two quieter footballers it would be hard to imagine in Scotland. On top of all that, Lennon has also had bomb threats intercepted and his family has had to be moved to a safe house. None of this has met with a comment or condemnation from Rangers, the only club who stand to gain from these heinous crimes from the more extreme of their supporters, which at the very least are a heavy distraction to Lennon and Celtic.
If they did indeed have any dignity, they might wish to follow the lead of former Celtic chairman Bob Kelly, who had stated that Celtic would withdraw from the Scottish Cup rather than profit from the actions of fans who had thrown bottles on to the pitch in an unsuccessful bid to get a game abandoned and replayed. This might lead to a swift resolution to what has been the most dreadful stain on Scottish football because, if these threats drive out any of the Celtic staff targeted, will it be Scottish Catholics playing for Celtic who are targeted next or, for that matter, anyone else who they take a dislike to?
For Rangers to eradicate sectarian singing and, more ominously, the type of fan who has involved himself in the persistent attacks on Lennon, they should release a statement saying that, while they had those sectarian policies in the past, not only do they no longer abide by them (as seen by their existing equal opportunities employment policy) but they recognise that those discriminatory policies were abhorrent and they wish to apologise as a club to the section of the community who were slighted by them.
The police service, the ambulance service, the fire service, and the NHS have all admitted to institutional bias and have apologised for it. Rangers, as the self-proclaimed ‘second most important institution in Scotland’ should follow suit. They may well lose many of their core support, but they might finally come out the other side as a club with a broader appeal than that which they have already. They certainly have nothing, in the long term, to lose.
Until Rangers themselves extinguish the smouldering embers of sectarianism at their club, there is always the danger that the flames will once again erupt and the house that they have built will be damaged beyond repair.
Two men guilty of 'bomb plot' against Celtic boss Neil Lennon
The pair were found to have plotted to assault the manager and other high-profile supporters of the club.
30 March 2012 15:20 GMT
Two men have been convicted of plotting to send fake nail bombs to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other prominent supporters of the club.
Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, were found guilty of conspiracy to asault after they constructed packages marked for Lennon, the late QC Paul McBride and ex-MSP Trish Godman.
McKenzie was also found guilty of dispatching an item to Lennon at Celtic Park with the intention of inducing him to believe it would "explode or ignite". The jury returned a not proven verdict on that allegation against Muirhead.
Two men guilty of 'bomb plot' against Celtic boss Neil Lennon
Judge Lord Turnbull deferred sentencing until April 27 and told the pair they had been convicted of "unusual but serious offences".
They had previously faced an allegation of conspiracy to murder before it was dropped earlier this week.
Following the verdict, district procurator fiscal Liam Murphy said: "Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie committed a series of criminal acts designed to intimidate and frighten a number of prominent persons connected with Celtic Football Club and Ireland.
"It is clear from the evidence that their intention had been to inflict harm on others. This was not about football - it was an act of violence against Scottish society as a whole, and impacted across the UK."
Detective Chief Superintendent John Cuddihy said Strathclyde Police was "satisfied" with the verdict and called the pair's actions "cowardly"
He said: "Muirhead and McKenzie have been found guilty of the most cowardly and reckless of crimes.
"They had no thought for the very many people in the postal service and administrative offices who may have been injured or maimed by handling these packages.
"Muirhead and McKenzie's deplorable actions were motivated by hatred and today's prosecution sends out a strong message that this has no place in a modern Scottish society. Their actions certainly have nothing to do with football and everything to do with mindless hate."
The case against McKenzie and Muirhead centred on five suspicious packages, two of them addressed to Lennon, which were discovered in spring 2011.
Police initially said the pieces of mail had been designed to kill or maim their intended targets, which also included the republican organisation Cairde Na hEireann.
But in reality Muirhead and McKenzie had constructed devices that could not explode, with the latter getting "bomb making" tips from 80s US television show The A-Team.
The duo committed a string of gaffes that lead to their conviction. McKenzie chatted about "building a bomb", unaware his car had been bugged by detectives investigating the case.
The unemployed builder from Saltcoats was also caught on CCTV buying parts for the packages while out at his local shops with his OAP mother.
Accomplice Muirhead, from Kilwinning, told his daughter-in-law to ignore "a bang in the night" in her street where one of the parcels was intercepted hours later.
The father-of-six got his hairdresser son to buy bottles of peroxide later used to make a substance found in the "bombs".
The pair also once discussed "our package" by text message.
A search of Muirhead's house in May 2011 uncovered petrol cans, a quantity of black wire and a bottle of cream peroxide. Other items found were an "oath of allegiance" to the Scottish Unionist Association, a Union flag and two flags featuring the Red Hand of Ulster.
Muirhead said he had obtained peroxide and passed it on to McKenzie, claiming that he was "terrified" of him.
"I know he's got pure hatred and it seems to be aimed at Neil Lennon and anything to do with Celtic Football Club," Muirhead told officers.
McKenzie told officers he got bomb making tips from watching the A-Team. He admitted knowing about the first device sent to Lennon and confessed to buying parts for other packages adding: "I told folk how to make them."
Prosecutor Tim Niven Smith said in his closing speech that the Crown case was based on the belief both accused thought the packages were harmful.
But, Muirhead's QC Gordon Jackson said you would have to be "dafter" than the accused to think they would go off.
Donald Findlay QC, defending McKenzie, told the jury "no one with two brain cells" would believe the parcels would explode.
Neil Lennon bomb plot: two men found guilty
Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie convicted over campaign of crude parcel bombs sent to prominent Celtic FC figures
Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Friday 30 March 2012 15.36 BST
Two men have been found guilty of plotting to hurt the Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, and other prominent Celtic fans using crude, homemade parcel bombs.
Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, face lengthy jail terms after a high court jury in Glasgow said they had sent five devices packed with nails to Lennon, the late lawyer Paul McBride QC, the senior Labour politician Trish Godman, and republican campaigners last year.
Muirhead, from Kilwinning in Ayrshire, and McKenzie, from the neighbouring town of Saltcoats, were accused of conspiring to seriously harm Lennon, McBride, Godman and members of the Irish republican group Cairde na hÉireann in Glasgow. On one charge of sending a first hoax device to Lennon the jury returned a verdict of "not proven" in the case of Muirhead.
The judge said both men had been "convicted of unusual but serious offences". He said sentencing would be deferred until 27 April for social inquiry reports.
Members of the men's families were in tears as the jury came back into court to deliver their verdict after deliberating for two and a half hours. One woman shouted as Muirhead was led down to the holding cells: "Keep your head up. You will walk out of here. You will." He nodded and raised his hand at the public seats.
There were angry scenes outside the court as other family members shouted abuse at camera crews and photographers before being pushed away by police.
The five-week trial heard that both men were committed supporters of Glasgow's Rangers FC, Celtic's traditionally Protestant arch rival, while Muirhead was an active supporter and admirer of Protestant loyalist organisations, including the Ulster Volunteer Force terrorist group.
The men were arrested in May 2011 following a major anti-terrorist investigation involving the security services and undercover surveillance teams launched after potentially explosive devices were sent to Lennon, McBride and Godman in March.
The police also believe the pair were planning further attacks: they found further similar materials after dawn raids on both men's houses.
In the closing stages of the trial, the prosecution was ordered to drop charges of plotting to murder the victims after the judge, Lord Turnbull, ruled there was insufficient evidence. The pair instead faced reduced charges of plotting to assault their targets, and a second charge of making Lennon believe the first hoax device they sent was capable of exploding and injuring him.
Strathclyde police were originally told by forensics experts that the devices were very dangerous as they contained a volatile homemade explosive called TATP (tri-acetone tri-peroxide) or organic peroxide, often associated with al-Qaida attacks.
When the plot was revealed last April, police commanders warned that they were "viable devices" and "very definitely capable of causing real harm".
But the jury learned that more detailed forensic checks found that none of the devices were viable. Their electronic devices, such as cheap digital watches and wires, were not capable of acting as detonators. The first parcel sent to McBride was an inert hoax device, using putty and 248 nails.
Prosecution witnesses told the high court, however, that the presence of TATP and organic peroxide in three of the devices sent to Lennon, Godman – who had just retired as an MSP after serving as deputy presiding officer of the Scottish parliament – and the republican group Cairde na hÉireann still meant they were potentially dangerous.
The TATP and organic peroxide was theoretically capable of exploding with a battery charge or shock.
The incendiary device sent to McBride, an outspoken lawyer who was Lennon and Celtic's QC who died suddenly midway through the trial while abroad, included a small container of petrol and was packed with nails.
Tim Niven-Smith, for the prosecution, told the jury that both Muirhead and McKenzie believed their devices were bombs and were capable of causing injuries.
The jury saw CCTV images of McKenzie buying plastic travel bottles, padded envelopes and a watch from a local discount shop, and then nails from a nearby B&Q on 14 April, the day before the package for McBride was found in a postbox.
A bug in McKenzie's car later recorded the men discussing how one had taught "thingwy [sic] how to make a bomb", and talking of placing one outside a police station and "letting the ****** off". Muirhead sent McKenzie a text message which read "Sorry m8 our package was in Pennyburn last night waiting on navy bomb disposbal [sic]."
Muirhead's son Gordon, who lived near a postbox used to post the McBride device, said both his father and McKenzie had warned him not to turn left, in the direction of the postbox, the night it was sent. McKenzie had also told Gordon Muirhead: "If you hear a bang in the night don't open the curtains".
In a police interview, Muirhead admitted watching the first device to Lennon being posted in March 2011, and to obtaining the peroxide hair dye for the devices, but wholly blamed McKenzie. He claimed McKenzie had "pure hatred" for Lennon and Celtic, and that he was terrified of his friend.
In his police interviews, McKenzie admitted to building the devices. He told police "OK, then aye, I'm involved." He claimed the first was intended just to be a hoax, but said the latter devices were intended to "scare" their recipients. He had seen on the internet that using peroxide would make them "flash".
The first of the devices was sent to Lennon on 3 March, the day after the Celtic manager had a violent touchline confrontation with the then Rangers assistant coach Ally McCoist following an ill-tempered cup match at Celtic Park which saw three players sent off and 34 fans arrested on the stands.
The discovery of the first hoax device was originally kept secret by Strathclyde police. As more devices emerged, they asked for a media blackout to avoid jeopardising their undercover operation.
Lennon, a hate figure for Rangers fans and Ulster loyalists, had previously received bullets in the post and death threats.
Over the next six weeks four potentially dangerous devices were sent, including a second addressed to Lennon, using the peroxide-based explosive TATP. Bomb disposal squads were called out to deal with the devices at sorting offices and police stations in Ayrshire, Glasgow and Belfast, where the device addressed to Cairde na hÉireann had been sent to a postal returns depot after it could not be delivered.
Both men had denied the charges. The police were unable to find any forensic evidence directly tying either man to the devices, relying heavily on witness testimony, the CCTV evidence and bugging.
Their defence lawyers insisted they had only sent out hoax devices intended to scare and frighten their targets, and knew they were unable to explode.
Donald Findlay QC, for McKenzie, said it might have been a "sick joke", but that was all it was. "They were sending a message to scare, cause alarm, cause panic or inconvenience. That is all that it was. It was not a conspiracy to cause severe injury."
Gordon Jackson QC, for Muirhead, said: "No matter how horrid, nasty, even evil to do it, it's absolutely not the crime that is alleged."
The actual envelope addressed to Lennon
Neil Lennon ‘bomb’ plot trial: Pair handed five-year jail sentences
Published on Saturday 28 April 2012 03:29
THE actions of two men who sent parcel bombs to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and others connected to the football club were described as “incomprehensible” as they were jailed for five years each.
• Pair targeted Neil Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and the late QC Paul McBride
• Previous charge of conspiring to murder their targets was thrown out
• McKenzie to serve concurrent 18-month term for hoax bomb
Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, were jailed for conspiring to assault Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and the late QC Paul McBride, as well as people at the republican organisation Cairde Na hEireann, by sending devices they believed were capable of exploding and causing severe injury.
McKenzie, from Saltcoats, Ayrshire, was also sentenced to 18 months for a separate charge of posting a hoax bomb to Lennon at Celtic Park to make him believe it was likely to explode. That will run concurrently with his five-year sentence. Muirhead, from Kilwinning, Ayrshire, was cleared of the charge by a not-proven verdict.
Both men were originally accused of a more serious charge of conspiring to murder their targets but it was thrown out a day before the trial concluded due to insufficient evidence.
At the High Court in Glasgow yesterday, judge Lord Turnbull said he could not “fathom” what was in their minds when they decided to send the packages.
He said: “It is incomprehensible that two such family men, in their 40s, would engage in such reckless and serious criminal conduct.
“Even the sending of a package as a bomb hoax would always be a serious offence and would be bound to result in a custodial sentence – that is because of the widespread disruption and anxiety caused by such conduct.” The judge said it was “obvious” he was not dealing with what would be considered “acts of terrorism”.
A-Team ‘taught’ McKenzie how to make hoax bomb
The jury heard that McKenzie told police he learned how to make a hoax bomb after seeing the 1980s TV show, the A-Team.
Giving evidence at the trial, Lennon said he was left “very disturbed” after finding out he had been targeted. He said he “couldn’t believe the lengths some people will go to”.
The plot centred on four suspicious packages, all of them non-viable, discovered last spring.
A device sent to Lennon at Celtic’s training ground in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, was intercepted at a sorting office in Kirkintilloch on 26 March last year when a postman saw a nail protruding from it. It tested positive for peroxide, which can be used to make explosives.
Two days later, a package delivered to Ms Godman’s constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, caused the evacuation of the building. Liquid inside a plastic bottle within tested positive for a small amount of the primary explosive triacetone triperoxide.
Also on 28 March, a postman tried to deliver a package to Cairde Na hEireann in Glasgow’s Gallowgate. After two failed attempts, it was sent to the Royal Mail’s national returns centre in Belfast, where it was found to contain potentially explosive peroxide.
No risk of injury from packages
The final package, found on 15 April in a postbox on Montgomerie Terrace, Kilwinning, was addressed to Mr McBride. The lawyer, who died before he was due to give evidence at the trial, was known to have represented Lennon and Celtic.
Lord Turnbull said yesterday: “There was quite simply no relevant sense that it could be said that any explosive material was present. There was also no form of detonator or method of causing ignition.
“There was no risk of injury to anyone beyond the risk of some accidental contact with nails present in the various packages – and these aspects are taken into account in deciding the appropriate sentence.”