Letters: Condemnation of Celtic fans should not be allowed to mask much deeper malaise of sectarianism

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Queen Elizabeth shaking hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in Belfast in  2012, symbolic then and now of the need to move away from the evils of the past
Queen Elizabeth shaking hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in Belfast in 2012, symbolic then and now of the need to move away from the evils of the past

IT is only to be expected that your columns will include sincere condemnation of the football fans who defied decorum at various grounds around Scotland when they insulted the Crown and the death of Queen Elizabeth (Letters, September 20 & 21). However, it is one thing to condemn what is clearly intended to be offensive but it would be a grave error to fail to see the reality behind these events. My own daily living tells me that there are decent, rational and well-informed people who would never express themselves in the manner of the football fans but who sincerely share the sentiments which promote that expression. Like another division that racks Scotland today, this is a divisive issue which many normal, rational people find impossible to discuss in a rational way.

On the other hand, I know of people who find that Queen Elizabeth's attendance at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin in 2011 where the Irish heroes of the 1916 uprising are commemorated, and when she acknowledged that and other loss of life in the Irish Troubles coupled with her televised handshake with Martin McGuinness in 2012, all point to a more positive direction of travel. That new direction was emphasised about a year later when the Irish government finally exonerated those thousands of brave soldiers of the Irish army who left that neutral army in order to fight with the British army against the Nazis during the Second World War and who were convicted in the Republic of desertion and thereafter suffered condemnation, poverty and exclusion along with members of their families. Then, of course, there was achieved the Good Friday Agreement. My admittedly-limited contact with citizens of the Republic suggests that public opinion there has moved some centuries ahead of the ongoing intolerance which continues to afflict parts of Scotland at various levels today.

By all means condemn and call upon the football clubs to penalise deliberately offensive chants and placards but that is no more than to complain about the symptoms of what is a much deeper malaise. There is no reason to forget the past but there is every reason to look to the future and to openly acknowledge and, by example, support progress along the new direction of travel away from the evils of that past.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.

FANS HAVE A RIGHT TO PROTEST

IN 36 years of following Celtic Football Club, at home, away, and across Europe, I have not even once spotted your correspondent Professor Sir Tom Devine (Letters, September 21) amidst the crowd; but then Officers of the Order of the British Empire are scarce amongst our legions. Nevertheless, he elects himself to speak on our behalf by calling upon the "vast silent majority" of Celtic supporters to "make their voices heard" regarding the refusal of those present to participate in the forced veneration of Elizabeth Windsor last Sunday in Paisley.

Had Professor Devine instead been moved to part with sufficient of his establishment gold to buy a matchday ticket, he might have seen that the vast majority of supporters were not, in fact, silent, but rather adding to those making their voices heard (not for the first time) in peaceful protest against compulsory expressions of British nationalism.

As a professional historian himself, Prof Devine ought to be more aware than most that monarchy, national identity, and the aftermath of the Reformation remain contested issues in modern Scotland. One wonders then why he presumably believes that those of us who do buy matchday tickets should be compelled to participate in quasi-religious observances commemorating the royals and wars of a nation to which we owe no allegiance? Football stadiums are no places for such practices. If you wish to pray, the land is festooned with churches, graveyards, and war memorials aplenty which are designed precisely for these purposes. It is as incongruous to insist that I and my fellow supporters observe a minute's silence or applause at a football game, as it is to insist that I and my fellow congregants watch a penalty shoot-out in the nave before commencing Sunday morning Mass.

There is a maxim in business that "the customer is always right", and those of us who finance Scottish football through our tickets and television subscriptions should finally be listened to by the football authorities. We are not cattle to be herded in adoration of anyone or anything.

Christopher McLaughlin, Thornliebank.

A MATTER FOR THE EXPERTS

SCOTT Simpson (Letters, September 21) says he is a lawyer with no medical qualifications and thinks it's an "affront to the rights of the individual" that he can't get his preferred Covid vaccine. I wonder how anyone who is not a subject matter expert can possibly know which vaccine is most appropriate for them or the broader population? That's surely a job for whoever does have the relevant qualifications and expertise and can provide the information to enable informed consent.

As a lawyer, I presume he would take a very dim view of public health specialists or epidemiologists drafting contracts or representing the public in court.

James Morrow, Glasgow.

DON'T GET CAUGHT UP IN THE CRUSH

I AM interested in Nicola Love's column ("Kids can't be LGBT? They can, ... and they are", The Herald, September 21).

As a young teenager, at an all-girls school, it was commonplace (if not normal) to have crushes on older girls and to react exactly as she describes.

Had I known then that same-sex relationships were a possibility, I might well have identified that as a future choice for me. At that time, as far as I was aware, only mothers and fathers got into bed together so that eventual outcome never entered my head.

Like many of my contemporaries, I matured through my teens from these schoolday crushes into positive heterosexual choices and future relationships.

I know the importance of having time to grow up before making lifelong decisions.

Olive Bell, Dunbar.

A TAXING NIGHTMARE

TO add to the quote on economists attributed to George Bernard Shaw (Letters, September 21), the great playwright, polemicist and political activist also observed that “a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul”.

However I leave the last word with versifier and humourist Ogden Nash (1902-1971):

“Abracadabra, thus we learn –

The more you pay, the more they need.

The more you earn, the less you keep.

And now I lay me down to sleep.

I pray the Lord my soul to take

If the tax-collector hasn’t got it before I wake”.

R Russell Smith, Largs.