THE notorious Famine Song sung by Rangers fans was condemned on the floor of the European Parliament last night.
Irish MEP Eoin Ryan described the chant aimed at Celtic supporters as despicable, and has written to all Scotland's MEP's, seeking their support to end the sectarian behaviour.
The Famine Song
I often wonder where they would have been
If we hadn't have taken them in
Fed them and washed them
Thousands in Glasgow alone
From Ireland they came
Brought us nothing but trouble and shame
Well the famine is over
Why don't they go home?
Now Athenry Mike was a thief
And Large John he was fully briefed
And that wee traitor from Castlemilk
Turned his back on his own
They've all their Papists in Rome
They have U2 and Bono
Well the famine is over
Why don't they go home?
Now they raped and fondled their kids
That's what those perverts from the dark side did
And they swept it under the carpet
And Large John he hid
Their evils seeds have been sown
Cause they're not of our own
Well the famine is over
Why don't you go home?
Now Timmy don't take it from me
Cause if you know your history
You've persecuted thousands of people
In Ireland alone
You turned on the lights
Fuelled U boats by night
That's how you repay us
It's time to go home.
The lyrics of the Famine Song are racist, a court said yesterday after a football fan challenged his conviction.
The Justiciary Appeal Court in Edinburgh ruled that Rangers supporter William Walls, who sang it, was rightly convicted of a racially-aggravated breach of the peace
Walls had been arrested at a Kilmarnock-Rangers game in November last year. He was shouting Fenian bastards and fuck the Pope , and repeatedly sang a line from the Famine Song, the famine's over, why don't you go home. The song is
banned by Rangers.
A sheriff ruled Walls had committed a racially and religiously-aggravated breach of the peace, and put him on probation for 18 months and banned him from football matches for two years.
At the Justiciary Appeal Court, Donald Findlay, QC, for Walls, argued that the Famine Song was not racist, particularly the refrain sung by the accused. He said it was an expression of political opinion, permitted by the right to freedom of speech
enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Findlay submitted that the refrain was no more racist than some of the lines of Flower of Scotland , which bid King Edward to return to England to think again, or God Save the Queen , which refer to crushing rebellious Scots.
An exchange of abuse between supporters was part and parcel of going to a football game, he added.
Giving the court's judgment, Lord Carloway said: The court has no doubt that (Walls's] conduct did amount to a breach of the peace, even in the context of a football match. Presence inside a football stadium does not give a spectator a free hand to
behave as he pleases. There are limits and the appellant's conduct went well beyond those limits.
On the Famine Song, about the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, he said: The song calls upon persons of Irish descent, who are living in Scotland, to go back to the land of their ancestors, namely Ireland. They (lyrics] are racist in calling
upon people native to Scotland to leave the country because of their racial origins. This is a sentiment which many persons will find offensive.
Police arrests for
insulting behaviour at a football match
Police armed with spy cameras and recording equipment will capture supposedly bigoted speech at Old Firm games as they enforce a new law that will see sectarian fans jailed for up to five years. Strathclyde Police will use the latest surveillance
technology to identify supporters who offend against offensive behaviour laws.
Police will use the information recorded on their equipment to arrest fans after the final whistle, as they enforce a controversial anti-sectarianism law that is to be rushed through Holyrood before the start of next season.
Alex Salmond's government introduced its bill in the Scottish Parliament, and the legislation is expected to be passed before MSPs rise for the summer recess in two weeks.
The bill, which outlaws offensive and threatening behaviour at football matches, and sectarian postings on the internet, was published amid concerns it could be challenged in the courts because it is being forced through too quickly.
The proposed legislation has shied away from producing a list of proscribed songs and chants. The law will instead create two new offences - offensive behaviour and threatening communications . Determining whether a football fan
has been offensive will come down to whether the he or she is judged to have indulged in behaviour likely to lead to public disorder. Much will depend on the context of their actions.
Offensive behaviour covers not only football matches but also fans travelling to and from a game and supporters gathering to watch a match on a big screen or at a pub.
Football fans could be jailed for singing God Save the Queen or Flower of Scotland under the SNP's new law to crack down on sectarianism. Making the sign of the cross or singing Rule Britannia could also be regarded as an
offence under certain circumstances once the legislation comes into force next football season.
Community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham said that such songs and gestures could be regarded as offensive acts when she was questioned about the SNP's anti-sectarian bill being fast-tracked through parliament with little scrutiny.
She said: A sign of a cross is not in itself offensive, but I suppose in circumstances such as Rangers and Celtic fans meeting each other on a crowded street, it could be construed as something offensive.
Senior figures in the legal fraternity urged the government to adopt a common sense approach to its Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill.
Conservative justice spokesman John Lamont asked the minister if she could envisage the singing of either the National Anthem or Flower of Scotland becoming offensive behaviour within the act? Ms Cunningham replied: The glib answer
to that is 'no, of course not'. But the problem is, for a criminal offence, it is all the facts and circumstances that surround that, that may turn them (sic] into problematic.
She added: Perhaps it might have been more appropriate to, say, look at Rule Britannia, which I understand is one (song] frequently used on one side of the terraces. Now, I would not regard (that song] as offensive, but it is exactly why we
don't start defining which songs, and listing the songs ... it really is a matter of facts and the circumstances of the case whether something is or is not offensive.
She went on to suggest that Celtic fans making the sign of the cross could also be judged offensive. I have seen hundreds of Celtic fans (behave] in a manner which I can only describe as aggressive - making signs of the cross, gesticulating
across an open area to Rangers fans.
Alex Salmond has declared his crackdown on sectarianism will not be made law until the end of the year, less
than two hours after the minister in charge of the plans had insisted it needed to be introduced within weeks. The First Minister revealed he had changed his mind on the timing of the bill and would allow further parliamentary scrutiny after Holyrood
rises for its summer recess next week.
Afterwards, aides to the First Minister said he had changed his mind following the debate, and had agreed to alter the government's stance in a 20-minute meeting with Cunningham after it had finished.
The scope of the bill has come under scrutiny from MSPs this week, with some claiming the new laws were unnecessary, and amid questions over whether making the sign of the cross or singing God Save the Queen could be deemed an offence.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill has been discussed by Holyrood's
The bill is the brainchild of Alex Salmond in his populist, attempt to crack down on the sectarianism, in those sections of society where the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic football clubs appears to dwarf every other aspect of life.
Serious though this problem is, the very name of this proposed legislation should be enough to ring alarm bells. We not only need to define what is offensive and to whom, but also what is threatening and to whom.
As the committee went all round the houses, going over and over the problem, and taking evidence from supporters' groups, academics and even a journalist, it was plain that the wrecking crews are already moving in on this bill.
Greig Ingram questioned the merit of criminalising some of the chants about his fellow Aberdeen supporters, asking: Would somebody chanting about my predilections for alleged activities with farmyard animals be offensive?
The only common sense at yesterday's hearing came from Dr Stuart Waiton, a lecturer in sociology and criminology at the University of Abertay, Dundee, who said such views were a beautiful example of how the bill risks creating an authoritarian
and illiberal society .
The proposed law could bring the legal system into disrepute and undermine existing measures to tackle sectarianism, one of Scotland's leading historians has warned. Professor Tom Devine told MSPs that the sectarian problem is part of the
fabric of Scotia and extends beyond football stadiums. Existing laws are perfectly adequate to crack down on the conduct targeted by the billl, the academic added.
Scotland is the only country in the world with specific anti-sectarian legislation on its statute book after religious aggravations were introduced in 2003, Holyrood's justice committee heard.
As is often the case, opposition parties at Holyrood are terrified to be seen as going soft on the bigots, and are therefore going along with this nonsense.
Campaigners against a proposed nasty new law to stamp out football sectarianism vowed to step up their protest as they distributed thousands of leaflets at the Rangers versus Hibs game.
Take a Liberty (Scotland) also plans to target Celtic Park and other football grounds, and demonstrate outside the Scottish Parliament when the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications bill is debated.
The bill would see those convicted face up to five years in jail for bigoted behaviour, such as singing or chanting that could incite trouble, at matches or online.
Their campaign intensified amid growing signs that opposition politicians at Holyrood believe the SNP's proposals are becoming increasingly confused and could criminalise ordinary fans.
Take a Liberty has the backing of former Celtic director and ex-Lord Provost of Glasgow, Michael Kelly, who said the bill is a runaway train . Kelly said:
It is ironic that our much maligned football fans are the first to stand up to defend freedom of speech and oppose this ridiculous, undemocratic and unenforceable piece of redundant legislation.
The ordinary fan has clearly a much firmer grasp of what human rights mean in Scotland than a First Minister jumping on a bandwagon which has quickly become a runaway train.
Take a Liberty spokesman Stuart Waiton said fans from a variety of clubs, including Airdrie and Celtic, helped hand out 5,000 leaflets at Ibrox, demanding free speech in football and an end to the police harassment of fans who are deemed to be
singing 'offensive' songs . He said the move was aimed at boosting a petition against the bill, which has attracted nearly 3,000 signatures. The group has also produced T-shirts with the slogan, after Voltaire: I may hate what you say but will
defend to the death your right to say it.
Pressure is mounting on the Scottish Government over its plans for anti-sectarian speech laws after an unprecedented attack on Alex Salmond by the Catholic Church.
It comes as the First Minister prepares to meet with Bishop Philip Tartaglia at the First Minister's official residence, Bute House, in Edinburgh.
As The Herald revealed yesterday, the bishop, who many expect to be Scotland's next cardinal, warned of a serious chill between the Catholic community and SNP Government. He also accused Salmond of reneging on a promise to make public statistics
on convictions for sectarian offences.
On other fronts, Labour's justice spokesman, James Kelly, has wrotten to Tricia Marwick, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, casting doubt on whether the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill is
compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Kelly, speaking ahead of publication tomorrow of findings from the second stage of the Bill, claimed the demand was made in light of concerns from the Scottish Human Rights Commission and said the legislation was too broad and risked spawning rafts of
costly court cases and compensation claims. He said:
There are serious questions as to whether the Bill complies with the European Convention on Human Rights. My fear is the legislation is drafted too broadly, which may lead to a situation where fans do not even realise their behaviour is breaking the law.
We must have complete confidence any legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament is absolutely watertight to avoid our laws potentially being subject to costly court cases and compensations claims down the line.
A Tory spokesman said:
All right-minded people want to eradicate the evils of sectarianism, but the best way of doing this is with clear, robust and vigorous legislation. We must guard against 'something must be done syndrome' producing bad law.
Alex Salmond has offered a freedom of speech concession to opponents of his government's anti-sectarian legislation in a bid to appease critics of the SNP's contentious new laws. The announcement of the freedom of expression clause came
after the First Minister held a meeting with the Bishop of Paisley in response to a letter the churchman had written setting out concerns about the government's anti-sectarianism legislation and its plans to bring in same-sex marriage.
Afterwards, Bishop Philip Tartaglia acknowledged the concession by the government.
Alex Salmond is set to agree to a formal review of his anti-sectarianism crackdown to appease critics who claim the measures he is proposing will prove to be either worthless or counter-productive. The First Minister is expected to back a call from MSPs
to put the new laws under review after they get through a parliamentary vote, so sceptics can monitor whether or not they make any difference.
The move comes after Salmond's bid to win unanimous backing was damaged last week when Labour MSPs announced they were opposing the new laws on the grounds that they might make the fight against sectarianism harder.
Repressive laws against religious insult at football matches in Scotland have been passed after the Scottish government rejected complaints the rules were unworkable.
The offensive behaviour bill was pushed through Holyrood using the Scottish National party's overall majority. The bill was opposed by all other parties and attracted widespread criticism from fans, clubs and the Church of Scotland.
Holyrood's four opposition parties, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Tories and the Scottish Green party, backed by the independent MSP Margo Macdonald, issued a joint statement accusing ministers of railroading the Scottish parliament:
It is of real regret that the first piece of legislation passed by this new parliament has been railroaded through by the SNP. The SNP has used its majority to force through a bad law that risks doing more harm than good. It sets a worrying precedent for
The new measures introduce two new offences of inciting religious, racial or other forms of hatred in public or on the internet, which will be punishable by up to five years in jail. The offences will cover football grounds, public places and pubs
Allison McInnes, the Scottish Liberal Democrats' justice spokeswoman, said the government was creating two new criminal offences without any kind of consensus :
They are unable to answer basic questions about how the law will be enforced or present evidence as to why it is needed. They can provide only the vaguest assurances that it will not impact people's freedom of speech.
What do you think of the Scottish Government's anti-bigot bill to help curb sectarian aggression?
It's basically an attack on freedom of speech. It's the ruling classes telling the working classes what to say and think. Will middle class rugby fans be arrested for singing anti-English songs? The idea is laughable.
Of course, some of the songs and words contravene laws on racial hatred, and maybe even on inciting violence. But that's a debate that needs to be had. Why aren't we having that? Because it would be really fucking awkward. Sectarianism is a real
problem, but it should be addressed by people engaging with each other -- reconciliation. If we were really serious about this the first step is to end religious segregation in schools. It's a Scottish reaction to think we can get rid of all this with
a piece of paper, just so we don't have to make eye contact, talk to each other, agree. In my time in Glasgow I've known a lot of Catholics and a lot of Protestants and you know what? Scratch the surface and we're all the same. Total cunts.
Pubs across Scotland could close unless the Government spells out to landlords what
constitutes an offence under new laws designed to tackle football-related bigotry, trade lobbyists have warned. inShare2 Custom byline text: GERRY BRAIDEN
With arrest rates for sectarian behaviour expected to accelerate after the Offensive Behaviour Act receives Royal Assent, the country's largest licensed trade group fears hundreds of bar and pub owners could become collateral damage.
The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has joined a long list of other parties asking for clarification on matters such as what songs and slogans are in and out and has asked for ministers and the police to provide real-life scenarios of situations
which could unfold in licensed premises.
The Government has said the police's football co-ordination unit was already setting up meetings with licensing authorities to discuss the implementation of the legislation.
In his letter to Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham, SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne said that as long as it was unclear how the laws would impact on the trade there was a high risk a licensed premise could find itself being reported to
the local licensing board which could then sanction their premises licence, with implications for the business .
He added: Given the new and very specific nature of the offences under the new Act relating to licensed premises, it would be helpful for my members and licensees more generally to have further guidance from the Government as to which types of
behaviour on their premises would be unacceptable under the terms of legislation. This would assist them in fulfilling the expectations of licensing boards and the police more generally.
A Rangers fan who was arrested for sectarian singing while on his way to attend a game against Celtic has been
jailed for four months.
Scott Lamont was heard singing the words of the Billy Boys song on Cathcart Road on 1 February. He admitted the charge at Glasgow Sheriff Court.
He was also given an 18-month football banning order. As part of the order he will be supervised for 18 months and must carry out 160 hours of unpaid work. Sheriff Paul Crozier said:
Glasgow has developed a good reputation in recent years. We had the Commonwealth Games last summer, we haven't had an Old Firm game in years. What happened at the first Old Firm game? People like him let Glasgow down. 'Ruin football'
A message has to be sent to those people who would choose to ruin football for the vast majority who want to go to these games, that you cannot behave like this. This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated, certainly not by me.
The sheriff described the words to the song as inflammatory an said it could have led to horrendous violence .