The Green Brigade

After a week of debate about the Green Brigade and (almost) universal media condemnation, we publish a different view. We think its crucial that the Green Brigade are attempting to make connections between Irish and Scottish republicanism, a very rare thing. Many Celtic fans could give you chapter and verse on Irish history but wouldn’t know the significance of 1820 or John Maclean.

“The Scottish Cup Final of 1988 was marred when Margaret Thatcher made an inflammatory gesture….she turned up”.
– Only An Excuse

“Maggie Maggie Get tae ****”
– Hampden 1988

“The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
– George Orwell

This applies equally well to sport.

Like a lot of football fans, I have always been very worried about the idea of banning certain chants, even if I find them disgusting or not. In Scotland this is tied up with sectarian issues. Political songs are not banned but fans often try to cast a political song of a group of opposition supporters as sectarian and consequently get it banned. This is often done because genuine offence is caused and often just to wind-up the opposition supporters.

At the moment Scottish football is full of controversies, intrigues and allegations of corruption and lies. I have no doubt some of the allegations are true. One website in particular is promising that there is more scandal to come.  The referee business is going to rumble on and hopefully some big shake-ups will come as a result. You might say we have learned a thing or two from the Godfather of corruption in football which is FIFA itself.  Corruption in football is common throughout the world and one of the myths of our little nation (and not only in terms of football) is that “it doesn’t happen here”. Spain, Germany, Italy and other nations have all recently had problems. Why would such things not be possible in Scotland?

Conversely, one of the good things about all this intrigue in the game is that it all helps to cover up the fact that the football is poor.

But apart from these controversies there is something else going on that is a fairly simple free speech issue. Celtic (the team I support) are trying to ban  the fans who made the display against the poppy being put on the Celtic shirt for the upcoming matches. The group who made the display made a statement of which this is part….

“Earlier this year, the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday confirmed that 14 unarmed civilians were murdered in Derry in 1972 by the Paratroop Regiment. They were among hundreds killed by the British Army during the most recent phase of conflict in Ireland. More recently, the British Armed Forces have murdered and maimed many thousands more innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The poppy remembers not just our grandfathers who fought the Nazis but also those who sank the Belgrano and brutally occupied the streets of Belfast and Basra. While we recognise the right of individuals to remember their dead and that many within the Celtic support will wear the poppy in memory of family and friends lost in WW2 and other conflicts, we cannot accept the imposition of the poppy onto our shirts.”

You can read the full statement here.

In the aftermath of it all (incidentally, using the word “aftermath” makes it sound like a disaster of some sort…it was a banner, nothing more) I was quite surprised to see many people on supposedly leftist sites attacking the group and calling them “thugs” and so on. They are not thugs and are in fact known to do work in the community with refugees and so on (no, I am not a member).

Whether you agree with what the banner said or not, and I would like to say that I have no problem with what they wrote, to ban the people who did it is clearly a form of political censorship. This shouldn’t come as a surprise from a club with John Reid as chairman but why is it acceptable to stop such people from airing their views? How could it possibly be acceptable?

By way of illustrating my point I would like to provide another example. Right in the middle of Poll Tax time, Thatcher made an ill-advised visit to present the Scottish Cup trophy to the winners of the 1988 Scottish Cup final.

The match was between Celtic and Dundee Utd and thousands of supporters of both sets of teams had one of these…

Fans of both teams took the opportunity to vent at Thatcher and the song that is the title of this article was probably the most sung on the day along with a couple of other ditties.

Should this display and song have been banned or is it ok just because most people agreed with it? It was actually a great day with a real unity in the crowd… a singleness of purpose if you will – despite the set-up of one team against another that you always have at sporting events.

It was also spoken about in Prime Minister’s question time with Alex Salmond scoring a couple of points off Thatcher a couple of weeks later in Prime Minister’s Questions

Q4. Mr. Salmond

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 16 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Salmond

Is the Prime Minister aware of the findings of last week’s Glasgow Herald opinion poll, which showed that the political effect in Scotland of her visit to the Scottish cup final and her epistle to the Caledonians was to increase Scottish National party support to its highest level for 10 years? Will the Prime Minister demonstrate her extensive knowledge of Scottish affairs by reminding the House of the names of the Moderator of the General Assembly, which she addressed, and the captain of Celtic, to whom she presented the cup?


The Prime Minister

I had a very good day in Scotland. Whatever the Hon. Gentleman tries to say, Scotland’s economy and people are benefiting enormously from the way in which the Government are handling them.

Note that last sentence from Thatcher there. I think the people in the Stadium that day were telling her that they weren’t benefitting. Should they have been denied the opportunity to say it?

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  1. Vronsky says:

    I’m not a Celtic supporter but (just to put the cards on the table) I can easily identify with one element of their support. I’m half Irish Catholic, with lots of deep family folklore about the Irish quest for independence. My mother told me my chronic back problems were hereditary because as a child she had slept on a mattress stuffed with rifles for the IRA. Lamarckism and anti-imperialism – two heresies in one maternal thought.

    My first reaction to the Celtic supporters’ protest was delighted approval. I’ve never bought a poppy in my life – I’m 62, so my distaste for the custom goes back long before Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, thinking, I got a bit conditional about it. The soldiers getting killed over there are mostly poor boys with no other career options – they’re just unfortunate patsies, so maybe it was insensitive.

    But I’m quickly back to thinking the fans were right. I know that some perfectly decent people will be unfairly hurt by their statement, but it is important to have the statement made. The more people who pile behind it, the less real hurt there might be – and I’m not talking about offended sensibilities, it’s broken bodies in the streets of distant places.

    There are of course the relevant songs.

  2. bytheway says:

    What exactly are The Green Brigade doing to make “connections between Irish and Scottish republicanism”?

    Are they campaigning, for instance, among Celtic supporters to end their slavish voting for the pro-Royalist, pro British Army, pro-Unionist pro British state Labour Party?

    Are they taking Scottish Saltires to Parkhead and to away games? Because let’s face it the majority of Celtic supporters are Scottish not Irish.

    Are they as proud of Scotland’s radical heritage as they are of its Irish counterpart? I’d hope so. (James D. Young’s book “The Very Bastards Of Creation” is a good starting point on the subject).

    Most Rangers supporters are brain dead unionist write-offs when it comes to Scottish independence but there is still the hope that a sizeable section of Celtic supporters will eventually get over their self-loathing Scottish cringe and get on board for Scottish independence, instead of giving zombie-like support to John Reid’s unionist and royalist Labour Party.

  3. bellacaledonia says:

    It’s a good question – is there anyone from the Green Brigade to reply?

  4. Tocasaid says:

    Unlike some Jambos, I don’t choose to be offended by this. I too have Irish blood a wee bit back which just happened to settle in Gorgie. I don’t choose to wear a poppy either – whilst I respect those who died in the first two world wars, I certainly don’t respect the likes of Earl Haig and the other private-school Brits who sent young men to their deaths.

    While it could be easy to criticise today’s generation of squaddies for volunteering to ‘bash Muslims’, you have to ask why the British Army are recruiting in places where the youth have little hope of employment – small town Stirlingshire, Alness, Inverness etc… Lochaber no more, Kinlochleven no more, Dundee no more…etc. Strange how money can always be found to recruit for the Army but schools and hospitals are expected to comply with ‘business plans’ and cut costs.

    AS to Celtic – some questions for them and their ‘Green Brigade’. Why not campaign against John Reid who proudly sent in those ‘British’ squaddies to Iraq and Afghanistan while saluting the Union Jack? Will you urge you fellow Celtic fans not to vote Unionist Labour? And, are you not the same group who produced an anti-Hibs banner at a recent Hibs-Celtic game? Fitba banter maybe but, so much for Hiberno solidarity…

    Thig ar là, ach le bhith a’ seasamh ri-chèile, chan e an amhaich a-chèile.

  5. Matti bhoy says:

    i am a member on the greenbrigade website and i can tell you celtic fans are very anti john Reid.

    1. matty of pollok says:

      am matty tae fae olde pollok give me details tae join the cause

  6. adayinmay says:

    Interesting article with some interesting debate attached.

    I do not wear a poppy and I never have. Its very unlikely that I ever will.
    I condemn each and every war and I will continue to do so.
    I believe in the freedom to protest and will protest if that is ever threatened.
    Despite my beliefs there is still something I find suspicious about the Green Brigade.
    I struggle to believe that the GB (unfortunate abbreviation) care much about the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq but more that they dislike the British Army and anything it does.
    I’m of much the same opinion but I find their attempts to publicise their case in the arena of a football match ill-conceived, damaging to their own cause and insulting to others.
    If they cared about Afghanistan and Iraq wars so much would it not be more effective to protest outside of the football arena and closer to the political world?
    Publicity was certainly captured by the GB protest on sat 6th Nov but I’d argue that the barrage of negative press and opinion set back the GB’s position 20 years or so.
    If the GB want the world to hear their stance and gain support for that stance then choosing football as a protest ground is very much an own goal. It’s too easy for anyone needing convinced of the wrongs of the British Army to dismiss these protests as mindless, moronic and just coming from thugs.
    “I was quite surprised to see many people on supposedly leftist sites attacking the group and calling them “thugs” and so on.” You can see the effect.

    I’m interested in the claim that “Celtic are trying to ban the fans who made the display against the poppy”. I have heard exactly the opposite and from a Celtic source. A friend of mine (Celtic season ticket holder) told me that he and hundreds of others have had their seats moved (against their wishes), during the last close season, to accommodate the creation of a “singing section” by Celtic FC.
    This new area is where the GB unfurl their weekly banner. Hardly the act of a club trying to censure its fans.

    Like the GB’s true beliefs and Celtic FC’s treatment of its fans, it would be interesting to discover the truth.

  7. bellacaledonia says:

    I’m interested in the idea that GB should protest outside football grounds and that somehow they have trangressed some boundary by being visible inside Parkhead? I think of protest from Jessie Owen to the Black Panthers, from God Save the Queen being booed off the public stages of Murrayfield and Hampden to anti apartheid protests. Surely the football stadium is the perfect venue?
    You are right though that the dispute isnt between Celtic and the SFA its between factions within the club. Given John Reidsenthusiastic support for the Iraq war Im not sure of your assertion that the club are colluding with the GB. This seems unlikely.

  8. adayinmay says:

    By protesting “outside the football arena” I don’t mean immediately outside the ground but more away from football entirely.
    Football stadiums are very good venues for protest due to public exposure but in this instance I’m suggesting the choice of venue backfired for the reasons I previously explained.
    The majority of football spectators don’t want a sectarian agenda present when viewing matches. GB’s protest was too easily construed as sectarian in the sphere of football (whether one thinks it was sectarian or not) and so I’d argue their point was lost. This is illustrated by the comment in the original article – “I was quite surprised to see many people on supposedly leftist sites attacking the group and calling them “thugs” and so on.”
    Jessie Owen and the Black Panthers case was heightened while the GB’s case was not. I’m arguing that Parkhead was the incorrect context for their protest.

    John Reid’s enthusiastic support for the Iraq war is unrelated to Celtic FC accommodating the seating requests made by their support. Just because JR in government supported the Iraq war doesn’t mean that Celtic FC will not accommodate (note I don’t use the word “collusion”) the request by fans or the GB to have a “singing” area. That, I would have thought, has more to do with commercial reasons than political reasons. It might have been naive of Celtic FC to think that the new seating arrangement would not become political.

    Celtic FC may have many beliefs that Im sure contradict John Reid’s previous actions and current beliefs but there seem many contradictions surrounding this issue.
    In the light of John Reid yesterday at the Celtic FC AGM calling for the resignation of referee Dougie MacDonald for lying, will he himself resign from his current post because of the lies he told when declaring war on Iraq?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Adayinmay writes: ‘The majority of football spectators don’t want a sectarian agenda present when viewing matches.’

      But was opposing the Iraq war and troops in Afghanistan part of sectarian agenda? I dont believe it was or is.

      Btw we support your idea that John Reid should resign for lying about WMD in Iraq. WE have not heard from him readirng your excellent suggestion. Will keep you posted. Btw – Dougie MacDonald should have been sacked, that he wasn’t has led to the present refereeing debacle.

      Michael Greenwell writes: ‘They also did NOT say people shouldn’t wear the poppy. They merely said it should be a matter of choice.’ But the problem is that i was a matter of choice, and Celtc FC made the wrong decision.

      1. Bella – i think all clubs were more or less required to wear it that day…

        “But Doncaster said it was now an established practice in the SPL for all clubs to wear poppies on their shirts on the weekend of Remembrance Sunday. ”

        Can you imagine the reaction if Celtic had been the only club to refuse?

        The club were worried about the reaction. The fans should be free to voice their protest without fear of being banned for it.

        So let’s get back to the real issue of corruption in Scottish football.

        I can’t wait for the next round of emails.

  9. matty of pollok says:

    pepole power will be the winner go on the green brigade pollok tims are behind you

  10. celtbhoywhufc says:

    After much debate and the press rubbish..lets look at the real facts on this debate…many irish men and woman served and serve in the british great grandfather from dublin did..many volunteered…but who are the offended here? support for any army is a politcal act..the modern poppy fascist’s have hijacked the poppy field working class who were slaughtered in the 1st world war..and in scotland and northern used by a loyalist agenda to to attack the irish/catholics or celtic fc as scum who are neither scottish or part of their great country…yet those who condemn dont really want us to be intergrated or observe their silence…it is a way of demonising our club and identity…but who has the right to offence here? northern irish celtic fans have..rightly..condemned john reid and co for ignoring THEIR feelings on this issue and the murders and abuses by the british army upon them and their relatives…yet they order us to salute those who have perpetrated massacres and colusion against the irish and other nations??? i would laugh if it wasnt so pathetic…what is true here is that those who want to support the army etc amongst our community and club be free to do so..however mr reid and co are far too willing to silence those who dont and the green brigade etc… our irish roots are only welcome if mr reid and co can sell some corprate bum space on the back of it..yet we have a manager from northern ireland and supporters who have legitimate right to refuse and say no to brit murder and working class death… we as celtic fans should always protest and let every one know that this clubs support was based upon left wing working class ideals…not sanitised brit revisionary history!!! lest we forget…derry..justice for the ballymurphy 11!!! yours against fascists and loyalist propaganda!!!


  11. Tocasaid – Look at any Celtic website and you will find hundreds of articles and comments made against John Reid.

    Adayinmay – The story about Celtic wanting to ban the supporters was here…

    Strictly on the Green brigade issue, as I said in the article, it is a free speech issue and nothing more.

    They also did NOT say people shouldn’t wear the poppy. They merely said it should be a matter of choice.

    Aside from the Green brigade issue. The idea of institutional racism is key.

    Personally, most of my friends, like me, support Celtic and Scottish Independence. My personal wish is that Celtic supporters would support independence more than they currently do. If the majority do not feel that way then it is not surprising in a country that has been mired for years in sectarianism to the point where, for example, a catholic school gave the entire day off to every student to celebrate the first catholic getting a job in a bank as recently as the 1960s.

    People will often say “ancient history” whilst still bringing up Bannockburn and the declaration of Arbroath.

  12. Tocasaid says:

    Fair enough. Reid seems to be as much an embarrassment for CFC as Vlad is for Hearts. Maybe now we’ll see some more visual protests against Reid along the lines of the banners made against the poppy appeal and even Hibs (yon feeder club ‘banter’) (!).

    Ironically, a post I made regarding Reid, and comparing him unfavourable to James Connolly, albeit in tongue in cheek fashion has gone down a hit on Rangers’ forums. It could be a learning op for them…

    Oh to be an OFer…

  13. It should also be obvious that the Green Brigade’s protest is a protest against John Reid (even if the murderous thug said the right thing at the Celtic AGM).

  14. Thomas Dobbin says:

    I, like most of my fellow celtic supporters do not have any problem with respecting those who fought for our freedom in each of the two world wars, but to wear the poppy would also suggest a latent support for the recent actions of the British Army in Belfast , Basra and Helmand province. If it was not such a serious issue, then surely one could find some ironic humour in the notion that a country could wage an illegal war on another nation, kill 1.2 million of it’s citizens and have their own soldiers fighting that illegal war portrayed as victims???????? If , nevertheless anyone chooses to wear a poppy, then that is their absolute democratic right, as is the choice to refuse to wear one.

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