John McDonagh and Martin Galvin speak to Tony Quinn, a Celtic Football Club supporter from New York, via telephone, about that status of the Celtic – Linfield football game to be played at Windsor Park in Belfast this week and about the sectarian dangers that will prevent Celtic supporters from traveling to the game. (begins time stamp ~ 10:25)
John: Right now Tony, I want to get into, because you’re a big part of the Celtic Football Club here in New York City and Celtic is famous worldwide. They go everywhere in the world. They sell out. They’re in the Champion League. And there was a draw that happened (and I’m going to get into what the whole July Twelfth thing is) but how sectarianism in The North has infected every aspect of life, not only in the Six Counties, but also in Glasgow. And what is happening that Celtic had this draw with a football team in Belfast but nobody might be able to go to the game? What is the story behind this now?
Tony: Well we were, there’s a European-wide competition, the Champions League, which contains the clubs from you know the upper-reaches of the leagues every year.
This year Celtic drew Linfield from Belfast – I’m not sure if any of your listeners know, geographically, where that stadium’s situated by it’s just south of the city surrounded by places like you know, Tigers Bay, Sandy Row, the Dublin Road, places like that which are no-go areas, pretty much, for Nationalists/Republicans in The North. So when the draw was made representatives from Celtic met with representatives from Linfield and the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) of Belfast and subsequent to that meeting Celtic issued a statement to say that they would not be picking up their allocation for traveling supporters to the ground. Now it infers there is that the PSNI cannot guarantee the safety of Celtic supporters traveling to the game. So there will be no ‘away’ support I think for the first time – I can’t remember any other game where there hadn’t been an away contingent of support represented at a game. They’ve also moved the game. The game was scheduled – these games take place on a Tuesday or Wednesday traditionally – so they’ve now moved the game to Friday which again I can’t recall having a game being moved so they will play next Friday at Windsor Park in Belfast and then the second leg, the return leg, will be back at Glasgow the following Wednesday. Celtic have offered Linfield, and it will be accepted, an allocation of tickets for their support on the return leg to Glasgow. So clearly, the Strathclyde Police, or Police Scotland as they are now, can guarantee the safety of traveling support but the PSNI, with all their armoured vans and weaponry, can’t guarantee the safety of the traveling support of the Celtic fans.
John: But will Linfield fans be at the game next Friday?
Tony: They, I saw – they had a television footage of them lining up yesterday to pick up their tickets yesterday at Windsor Park in Belfast.
John: So this is Celtic, that is a world renown team – actually is it the son or the father of somebody from WBAI, Gil Scott Heron, who’s well known here at WBAI, didn’t his father play for Celtic?
Tony: His father played for Celtic, yeah, back in the day.
John: Yeah, so I mean it has a long tradition – Irish team founded by…
Tony: …Well it’s always been – Celtic never been, you know they’ve never been a sectarian club, they’ve never been a racist club, they’ve accepted players from – you know we had a guy from India play for us at one stage and I think that was back in the ’20’s. The important thing to remember is that on the other side of that both Linfield and Rangers had sectarian policy right up to the 1980’s where they wouldn’t sign players of the Roman Catholic persuasion and to the extent that Jock Stein, the famous Celtic manager, said that if was offered a Catholic player or a Protestant player to sign for Celtic he would always sign the Protestant because he knew Rangers would never sign the Catholic!
Well, there’s another thing that’s going on and it’s affecting things in Glasgow – the Orangemen marched through Glasgow there a couple of weeks ago and people on the sidelines were singing this song that we’re going to play next. Now, what’s going on – and we have a debate here about hate speech and you know free speech and everything but there’s something that goes on in Glasgow and the Six Counties that certain songs cannot be sang and it’s getting wider and wider every year. But I’m going to play this song, it’s called The Famine Is Over. And it’s a take-off or it’s aimed to the Catholics in Glasgow – you know – we fed you, we clothed you, the famine is over now get back to Ireland and get out of Glasgow. So I’m going to play that and I want to get your reaction to the song.
Audio: Song, The Famine Is Over, performed by The Thornlie Boys, is played. The lyrics are:
I often wonder where they would have been
If we hadn’t have taken them in
Well we fed them and washed them
Thousands in Glasgow alone
From Ireland they came
Brought us nothing but trouble and shame
Well their famine is over
Why don’t they go home?
Well 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 their 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 evil seeds have been sown
‘Cause they’re not of our own
Well their famine is over
Why don’t they 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
Fueled the U-boats by night
That’s how you repay us
It’s time to go home
Because your famine is over
Why don’t you go home? (song ends)
John: Ah, yes – isn’t that a lovely tune? The famine is over why don’t you go home? We fed them and we washed them and you brought on us nothing but shame. Tony, it is an unbelievable song but it is a very popular at Linfield and at Rangers because anytime you watch some of the games and they do the highlights, and they did it in Glasgow, this song is now one of their favourite songs.
Tony: Yeah, right from – you know you go from The Beach Boys to the Billy Boys I guess, you know?
John: Yeah, you want to be ‘knee-deep in Fenian blood‘ – I guess that is a good one, too.
Tony: You listen to the lyrics and you think to yourself: You know we had Joyce and Yates and Wilde and Beckett and Heaney and then you have some individual who could come up with that, you know? It’s not exactly great penmanship. But I mean it’s important to remember that these marches don’t take place just on the Twelfth of July itself – this lasts for weeks coming up to The Twelfth. And they have what they term ‘Church Parades’ They have these ‘Church parades’ where they have their flute bands playing what they call ‘kick the Pope’ songs, anti-Catholic songs and yeah, it causes disruption throughout the Six Counties for weeks leading up to The Twelfth – certainly on The Twelfth to the extent that you know there’s this economic argument that The Twelfth is a cultural festival that generates you know money in the Six Counties but with the large numbers of Nationalists and Republicans who actually leave – my family growing up – it was my dad, you know coming up to The Twelfth he was like: I don’t care where we’re going but the car’s headed south! You know, a lot of Nationalists and Republicans flee the jurisdiction for the period so and just, you know, I guess there’s legislation to deal with parading, there’s legislation to deal with hate crimes – I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and they put up these bonfires – now some of these bonfires are eighty feet tall!
They hang them, they hang effigies of various Republican leaders from them, they’ll put Vatican flags up there, Irish Tricolours, the Starry Plough, whatever they can get their hands on and that – those – you know that’s hate speech and the PSNI, for some reason, let them away with – you know, they don’t want to, I guess, start ‘trouble’, inverted commas, so they let them off.
John: And also, on the Irish Tricolour, they’ll put ‘KAT’ – Kill All Taigs – which is a derogatory term for Catholics.
And just to let our listeners know: This is commemorating a Battle of the Boyne in 1690 where King Billy over King James. This is what’s being commemorated on July Twelfth where, like Tony was saying, the Nationalists just bail out and now they’re closing down all the liquor stores in the Six Counties because there is a madness that takes over this week that is not to be believed! You have to be up there to see it – the bonfires and they pick a special town – I was over one year, Kesh in Co. Fermanagh was picked – the amount of arches and Union Jacks and everything and you know there’s a lot of Catholics that lived in the area – you just didn’t go into the town. It was sort of given that this was the Protestants going mad. This is their time of year and that but now, Tony, I played that song – how do you feel about them now using that song to be banned and in Scotland now – they’re saying now they’re going to ban marches ’cause people on the sidelines sang it and you’re having what’s going on at Celtic, too, at Celtic Park, that if Celtic supporters sing certain songs they are fined and banned from the stadium – I mean but how far do we go on what songs that we’re going to ban or what chants?
Tony: Well there’s certainly legislation in Scotland banning certain songs. In some cases Celtic fans that have been pulled from the stadium and brought up before the courts have successfully argued that the songs that they were singing were not sectarians but were you know ballads, Irish ballads, and, in fact, there’s very, very few cases where Celtic fans, even though they’ve been brought up before the courts, have been found guilty. You know, you have these parades in Doire and in Newry – places where there seventy-five percent of the population is Nationalist/Republican and you usually have about six or eight major marches to what they call ‘the field‘, where you know the bands and the onlookers gather, for an alcohol-induced, frenzied, you know debauched – and don’t forget – these are ‘Church parades’ – that’s the – the emphasis must be made that this is a religious outing – they market this as a celebration of their religion. Yet there’s nothing religious of any note that takes place at these so-called fields that they gather in afterwords.
Martin: Tony, this is Martin Galvin. I just want to make a point. We should tell our listeners: First of all it’s the Battle of the Boyne and, indeed, the Pope supported one of the two English kings in that battle. He actually supported King Billy, King William, because the French were allied with King William and said a Mass of thanksgiving in honour of that victory and he still gets burned in effigy and kicked down the street in all those parades. One of the worst parts about these parades is the desire to go into Nationalist or Republican areas– you know they have to go down the Ardoyne or a section like that, or the Garvaghy Road. It seems like a big part of these triumphal parades is to do it in Republican areas, in Nationalist areas, to try and step on and show superiority, triumphalist, over their Nationalist, their Catholic, their Republican neighbours. And today in Donegal is a big parade in Rossnowleah, that in the South of Ireland, no one will interfere with it, nobody’ll have any problem with it, nobody’ll try and break it down or try to humiliate anybody where that parade marches although it is in a – you know, in Donegal, which is, obviously, part of the Twenty-Six Counties but if you go into The North there’s going to be an attempt just to parade – you talk about ‘Church parades’? That song is sometimes sung outside of Catholic churches that are along the route. And I just want our audience to understand how much bigotry, how much triumphalism, how much of an element the anti-Catholic, anti-Nationalist part of those parades, those demonstrations, those ‘Church parades’ as you call them is. Isn’t that so?
Tony: Well they, they – you know have instances in the past were they would throw coins, they would throw pennies, down from the walls of Doire down into the Bogside. But they certainly are – they’re coat-trailing exercises, they’re an exercise in – you know they have this, the Rangers, they have this sign that’s over the door, the dressing room, before they walk onto the park itself, onto the pitch itself, ‘We Are the People’ (WATP) – it’s this generational idea that they are superior to the Nationalist/Republican community in The North.
Martin: Okay. Tony, we’re going have to wrap it up. We’re going over to Dublin in a minute. But there you have it – the story of why – you know, you talk about a United Kingdom but people can’t go from Scotland, or people who support one of the – an internationally famous soccer or football team, Celtic – to go to see a Celtic match because it’s in a part of Belfast where Catholics and Nationalists will not be safe for watching a Celtic match.
John: And Radio Free Éireann…
Tony: …I mean it’s just…
John: …Go ahead.
Tony: Can you imagine – just before I go – can you imagine the New York Jets telling the Miami Dolphins that they can’t guarantee the security of their fans…
Martin: …John and I are both Jet fans. We would love to see that happen however, we have had them at the stadium humiliating us as they defeat us over and over again and we would start with New England fans but…
John: …But you know Tony, is incomprehensible that you know here, you want to say within the United Kingdom, a team from Glasgow cannot travel to Belfast and be guaranteed their safety.
Tony: I know.
John: It’s just bizarre! But in keeping…
Tony: …it’s 2017. That’s the thing everybody needs to remember. It’s 2017.
Martin: And not that they – not just interested in going there and saying: Great! Our team won. It’s just that they would attack, go after, try and humiliate and physically attack…
John: …well, kill…
Martin: ….physically kill people for rooting for the other team because of what their religion, what they assume their religion is, by virtue of the fact that they support Celtic.
Tony: I’ll quickly finish up: In 1948, Belfast also had a Celtic team, Belfast Celtic, they played on the Falls Road, had a stadium there that held fifty thousand people. Belfast Celtic played Linfield in 1948. The crowd rioted.
The Linfield fans rioted – attacked the Celtic players on the field, broke one of the legs of one of the Celtic players – which resulted in Belfast Celtic withdrawing from the Irish League at the time and Belfast Celtic was subsequently wound up the following year. So they killed off Belfast Celtic but they ain’t gonna do it to Glasgow Celtic ’cause they’re in for a beatin’ when we meet them.
John: Alright, Tony, in keeping…
Martin: …and you’re talking about the score – not the type that…
Tony: …I’m talking about the score! I’m talking about the score, yeah!
John: And in keeping with the Glorious Twelfth here we’re celebrating on Radio Free Éireann we’re going to go now with The Old Orange Flute by The Dubliners and when we come back we’ll head to Dublin. (ends time stamp ~ 27:56)
11 July 2017 Update: Bonfire that targets Celtic Football Club player, Scott Sinclair, a black man.
12 July 2017 Update: And hours later this great Tweet was posted in reply:
— mark brown (@MnDlover) July 12, 2017
Scott Sinclair scores the winning goal for Celtic at Ibrox. pic.twitter.com/wXY9DUoEQM
— Focus on Celtic (@FocusOnCeltic) July 11, 2017