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Let The People Sing - Celtic & Anti-Irish Racism
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Derek Warfield the co-author of Celtic & Ireland in Song and Story wrote the following article.The Glasgow Celtic Club founded to raise money for the poor of Glasgow by emigrant Irish religious and lay leaders in 1888. The Club and its activities would soon become the focus of much of the Irish community’s energy. Consequently in a very short time The Celts were to become not only a very successful football Club but for many Irish and Scots one that was destined to be the badge of Irish identity in Scotland and throughout the world. The support given by Catholic Irish and Scottish communities was generous and unconditional. Celtic is for many communities in western Scotland a symbol of their Celtic heritage and tradition. And for this reason Celtic has always had an appeal to many supporters who were non-catholic and has always had non sectarian ethos. This inclusativity of the Celtic Football Club is an important fact. On close analysis is a reflection on the social politics that many of the Celtic founders and community subscribed too. This philosophy on the Scots-Irish was inclusive, whether it was expressed as Republican /Socialist/ Nationalist or Labour politics. It is also a fact that the freedom of Ireland was never far away from all those involved in Celtics early beginnings. It is also true to say that the success of the Celtic Football Club has brought pride for many Irish Glaswegians and those of Irish ancestry all over Scotland and it can be said that it is now today a badge of Irish Identity around the world. The Celtic Football Club represented more than their sporting hopes and dreams.
Many commentators and those in positions of power and control in Scotland and Britain have not come to terms with these facts. In some cases the objectors to Celtic’s Song lore ignore their own very public displays of British tradition and history much of which is deeply offensive to many Irish people.
The British tried unsuccessfully over many centuries to deprive and dispossess the Irish of their culture and history. Today this activity continues in Scotland where objectors to Celtic supporters Irish cultural heritage, have relentlessly and actively campaigned to have the Celtic supporters forget their past history and popular song culture. For many of these people the presence of The Celtic Football Club is reason enough to be hostile, and this hostility is expressed as British racism that has its roots in 19th century Empire politics. Until recently this racism was never acknowledged never mind confronted by the British authorities. To day when British racism is acknowledged or confronted in Scotland it is attacked as a two sided coin which it is not.
Ireland’s cultural war with England’s attempt to control our country was and is just as contentious as the military one over centuries. Many British racists have always been resentful of Irish culture, language, music or literature and seen expression as a threat. For an understanding of this cultural war and background it is necessary to go back to Rangers beginnings which was quiet different from that of Celtic. In the late nineteenth century policies of the British government was both racist politically and biologically, the white mans burden philosophy dictated many policies that brought misery to many peoples around the world. The English idea of their role in the world and that of their empire was that they would lead the world in the art of civilisation. They also believed that inferior races such as the Irish and Scots were unfit to handle advanced representative institutions such as self -government and representative democracy. (It is only in the last few years that the Scots could be trusted with their very limited own rule) The English also dictated to legitimise their rule in Ireland the Irish must be deprived of their sense of culture and history. So that the Irish were removed from any control or roll culturally. Where and when Scottish or Irish culture was and is expressed, to be accepted it would have to be by artistic standards set by the English. All of Irish traditions language, sport, music and song at one stage or another was the object of destruction or cultural control. This cultural war for control is still being fought and the object of destruction today is the popular song culture of the Celtic fans. In Ireland attempts were made to marginalise and prevent the Irish from maintaining and participating in their heritage. These British policies impacted on the Irish and Scottish communities over every generation. While much has been written about its impact on Ireland very little consideration has been given to the impact that British Racism has had on Scotland. The ethos of Rangers Football Club and its British expression was born in this empire generation. The club never had a history of inclusiveness and until recently openly refused to sign Catholic players. The ethos of the British monarchy is sectarian, privilege and benevolence and privilege is very much part of loyalism to the British Crown both in Ireland and Scotland. Above all loyalism has been fostered and encouraged at the highest level in British society over many generations. To those who expressed their loyalty outwardly and visibly it has brought many privileges and much benevolence. Plus the fact that in the past many honours and titles were politically given to enhance British control in Ireland and Scotland. Honours are a very important part of control of British society and were and are given freely where deemed necessary. Above all British Loyalism has a very powerful military tradition and aspect. Taken to the extreme many loyalists in Ireland and Scotland believed that any action that preserved the Union no matter how violent would be absolved by the British government.
The Celtic Club has had to contend with this hostility and intimidation since its foundation. This hostility was born out of these 19th century English politics and these policies were fertile ground for those who were racist, anti-Irish and anti-Catholic. There are many in Scotland who would begrudge any form of Irish identity for The Celtic Club and refuse to acknowledge the historic reasons why the Club was founded. Over many generations and on the many occasions when The Celtic Club expressed its Irish identity they were confronted by elements resentful that their perceived superior position real or imagined was threatened. A close analysis of these protesters will show that their criticisms have nothing got to do with offence and their protests have everything to do with, privilege, power and control.
The Irish in Scotland and their descendents will always express their faith and patriotism differently because of the events of history. The Irish Diaspora could never express their nationality in the same manner as the loyalist British subjects and if Celtic supporters wish to pay tribute it will always be by standards set by them. Every nation and race has the right to remember its patriotic dead and those who have represented and defended its people. The manner in which they commemorate their fallen sporting social and political heroes will always be determined by the history of the race or nation. Celtic supporters remember Irish patriots in song. Many European nations pay tribute to their heroes in great monuments stone, we remember our heroes patriots in songs and ballads because of our colonial past. Most of the songs and ballads that are sung by Celtic supporters are sung for pride, fun and enjoyment. Some that have been popularised and are a reminder of the events issues and the suffering of the Irish race particularly during the nineteenth century at the time Celtic Football Club was founded. There is no racist literature in their content.
No nation has the sole right to remember their past in a public way. Their are many displays of British heritage, one the most powerful and most public is the monarchy. Unfortunately there are many of the British heritage who believe that they alone have the right of remembrances and are resentful of any public expression of historical song from Celtic supporters. Many British communities have memorialised their past history of conquest and Empire in institutions, monuments of stone and in cities, towns, cathedrals across Britain and by the celebration of these military conquests and victories. Their history has allowed them to do so. The celebration and glorification shields the violence that lies behind many of these memorials and the memorials are very often offensive to many communities around the world who were victims and suffered at the hands of these British institutions. Many people in Ireland are offended by this ceremony and military celebration of violence .There are many aristocratic and military leaders memorialised in the churches of Britain and Ireland that would not be remembered with affection in the countries where their military adventures won them this notoriety.
These very public displays of Military jingoism are more offensive to many Irish than the simple expression of a song culture could ever be to those British who declare that are offended by Irish song culture. It should not be forgotten that the Irish and Scots have had to tolerate the jingoism and triumphalism of many British institutions in silence and have had to live with open hostility and resentment to their very simple popular song culture. Most Irish do not wish to change English or British traditions, nor could they do so. Offensive they might be but that offence is now part of tradition.
Show tolerance please for the only public expression of Irish identity in Britain is the song popular culture of The Celtic Football Club. Those who object to our song culture should take a look at their own traditions before criticizing the heritage of the Scots-Irish in Scotland. There were millions of Irish who were starved suffered and were murdered or politically or economically exiled from Ireland for king queen and country. This Monarchy and privileged aristocracy were responsible for thinning the Irish population from 10 million to five million in fifty years. We can hardly be asked to celebrate the monarchy who presided over such horror.
Facts are I know many Irish-Americans generations removed from Ireland for whom the English Monarchy will always be offensive. In The United States the liberty so dearly won in two wars against the English Victory was so important that a ballad of their final victory at Fort McHenry in 1815 is The Star Spangled Banner was the song went on to become the American anthem and it has been a reminder to the world that the generation that defended US liberty and Independence against an unprovoked attack on a fledging republic would always be given the highest tribute of remembrance. Their deeds have been sung wherever the American flag flies. The Americans have the right to remember their patriots as they see fit and few would question that right, and if British subjects were to make critical protests about the Star Spangled Banner they would be told where to go. However, few would say that by commemorating their heroes and patriots by the persistent singing of the Star Spangled Banner is offensive to the British subjects whose armies were defeated in two wars. There were many British loyalists in America who were resentful of the fact that this ballad was chosen as the anthem and tried the change it status without success. The same is true of the Irish National Anthem The Soldiers Song sung by the volunteers and by the supporters of Glasgow Celtic the songs importance was such that was given the same honour as the Star Spangled Banner and consequently The Soldiers Song will never be sung with greater passion than by the supporters of Celtic Football Club..
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