MAY 2015
plans unveiled by
the 1916 Rising
Committee, Cairde
and the 1916
Centenary Project
is chosen as
Scotland’s 2015
entrant after
winning contest
in Aberdeen’s
Douglas Hotel
FOLEY’S brand
new GAA comedy
drama, PRIDE OF
CLUB, based in
Donegal, makes a
humourous debut
Act designed to target Irish in Scotland?
COMMENTS by senior judges have
suggested that the Offensive Behaviour at
the Football Act was designed to criminalise
Irish political expressions, after the judgement
refusing an appeal to two men charged and
found guilty under the act was made public.
The Appeal Court judges—Lord Carloway,
Lord Bracadale and Lord Boyd of Duncansby—
gave their judgement after two Celtic fans were
denied an appeal after being found guilty under the
act, and in their summing up they concluded that
the focus of the act is on ‘opposing factions
involved in the politics of Ireland.’
The judges’ comments declared that the ‘main,
but not exclusive’ goal of the act was to deal with
political opponents involved in Irish politics.
“The Offensive Behaviour at Football and
Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012
is a measure introduced to address what many, but
by no means all, consider to be the serious social
issue of sectarianism in football,” they said. “The
main, but not exclusive, focus is on the behaviour
of certain Celtic and Rangers fans with their long
standing attachment to opposing factions involved
in the politics of Ireland, and Ulster in particular.”
The comments raised concerns among many in
the Irish community, and particularly among those
who actively oppose the act, including groups
such as Fans Against Criminalisation (FAC).
Writing exclusively in The Irish Voice, Jeanette
Findlay of FAC outlined her reaction to the
comments by the judges and how many in the
Irish community now feel that the legislation
specifically target those of Irish origin.
“We have a law in Scotland today, which is not
about addressing any crime for which there are
any recognised victims—other than those paid by
the community to serve them—but is about stopping
people of Irish origin publicly remembering the
history of that country and the momentous events
of the distant past as well as the more recent past,”
she writes. “Some may feel that a football ground
is not an appropriate place for such remembrance
to take place, but that is not the view of the sporting
authorities if the practice—now widespread—of
having remembrances of other conflicts annually
at sporting events across the UK is anything to go by.
“Indeed the attempt involved in this act to
criminalise the political views of a particular
ethno-religious group has attracted the attention
of the body set up by the Scottish Parliament to
monitor human and civil rights in Scotland, the
Scottish Human Rights Commission.
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“They have referred the UK Government to the
UN Human Rights Commission for breaches of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights because of this Act and because of other
issues to do with the inadequate oversight and
control of the Police Service of Scotland.
“That referral is currently being investigated
and the Scottish and Westminster Governments
are rightly being asked to account for themselves.
The great irony of this is that while football fans are
told they must not remember in song the history
of Ireland including songs like the Boys of the Old
Brigade, we have SNP MSPs and councillors
attending the launch meeting of the 1916
Centenary Commemoration Committee which
will, next year, celebrate the bravery of... the boys
of the old brigade.”
The ongoing concerns surrounding the act has
seen continued opposition both from football
supporters and from civil liberty and human rights
activists, while the opposition parties and
independents at Holyrood continue to oppose the
act as they did before it was passed into law.
Despite a recent survey by the Wings Over
Scotland website—which appeared to show a
broad support for the act, both among football
fans and ordinary citizens who do not follow the
game—organised opposition continues to remain
strong, with a current petition for the immediate
repeal of the act having gathered nearly 6000
online signatures so far.
Early review?
The act is due for review in August, following the
terms of its introduction, which called for a review
of its implementation after two full football seasons.
However, calls have also been made for an
early review, both by politicians and members of
the public. Speaking previously, former SNP MSP
John Finnie, who currently sits as an independent
MSP at Holyrood, asked the Justice Committee
for an early review.
“When we’re down to a sizeable group of people
feeling that a piece of legislation disproportionately
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impacts on them, then I’d like to have an early
review,” he said.
His proposal was supported by the Conservative
MSP Margaret Mitchell, who backed him saying:
“Clearly there is a lot of concern about how this
legislation is operating in practice and about the
drafting of it initially. It concerns me too about the
amount of resource going to it.”
Concerns also continue to be expressed by both
the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Labour.
Researchers at the University of Stirling are set
to publish a study into the operation of the law in
August, which Scottish Minister for Community
Safety Roseanne Cunningham said would be a
‘proper, comprehensive, quality-assured, evidence
-based evaluation’ and will inform the government
review of the law scheduled to take place the
same month.
Campaigners against the act will be hoping that
the extra scrutiny being applied to the act will
create the possibility of its repeal.
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