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2 April 2009 Edition

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Scottish supporters stand up to racism

FLYING THE FLAG: Marchers were subjected to racism and sectarianism by counter-demonstrators

FLYING THE FLAG: Marchers were subjected to racism and sectarianism by counter-demonstrators

BY The Hanging Gael

SINCE its inception, Cairde na hÉireann has been campaigning to eradicate sectarianism and racism within Scottish society. It is part of our aims and objectives as set out in our constitution. Our community, the Irish Diaspora in Scotland, suffer from both sectarianism and racism on a regular basis.
In 2007, on the 70th anniversary of the deaths of a group of young Irishmen from Achill Island who were killed in a bothy fire in Kirkintilloch in 1937, a plaque was erected in their memory. Many of our members attended the unveiling.
The following day, the plaque was destroyed.
The local newspaper reported the incident as “a random act of vandalism”. However, we learned through our own sources that the plaque had actually been attacked on two occasions. Involved in one of the attacks were grown men, who turned up in a car with pick-axes to smash the plaque.
Individual members of the Irish community groups who had paid to have the memorial erected approached Cairde na hÉireann and appealed for us to help them seek justice. They considered it not as a “random act of vandalism” but an act of anti-Irish racism. The local council refused to accept this.
After much discussion it was decided to hold a march against anti-Irish racism through the town to highlight the issue and to draw it to the attention of the media, the police and the politicians who erroneously referred to it as a “random act of violence”. What happened next was a catalogue of discrimination and further racism – this time by the local council.

OBJECTIONS
Twenty-one objections to the march were logged with the council. So, in the correct procedure, a public consultation meeting was held, with councillors and pro-march and anti-march advocates in attendance. Cairde’s spokesperson was constantly denied the right to speak, in contrast to the objectors who were given free reign.
The meeting decided to ban republican bands and uniforms, even going as far as stating that the ban included ANY type of musical instrument played by one or more people! This was a decision without justification, and indeed it breached the legislation set out by the Scottish Executive.
Other restrictions were tabled. They wanted the route of the march cut by 70 per cent – again without justification and breaching the legislation set out by the Scottish Executive.
Then there was a demand for re-routing the march - no justification, breaching the legislation set out by the Scottish Executive.
We refused to accept these restrictions and instead of marching that day we held a peaceful protest at the council offices.
We reapplied for the march to take place in January 2008 and this time decided to reluctantly accept the conditions, even though our rights had been breached.
Throughout this period we offered to work with East Dunbartonshire Council (EDC) to help them understand why the restrictions were both democratically and morally wrong. Unfortunately, the council did not take up the offer.
We maintained: “Until Cairde na hÉireann are satisfied that East Dunbartonshire Council recognise and actively works to tackle these issues, we will continue to campaign in this area.”

DIFFERENCE
We applied again this year for the march to take place on 21 March. We were invited to a meeting and were amazed at the difference in attitude from the council and the police. To our surprise – and to the local police and council’s credit – the march was approved. We met with the police to discuss stewarding and other march issues to ensure the safety of all involved.
We had been informed that a counter-demonstration was being organised by members of a well-known Rangers supporters’ website in conjunction with a loyalist website. We printed off their information leaflet and gave it to Superintendent Duff, the officer in charge. We made it clear that whilst we acknowledge the right of those who opposed us to peacefully protest, we warned that we would expect action to be taken should the counter-demonstrators behave in a racist or sectarian manner.
If you view the video link on this page, you can see for yourself exactly what transpired. The evidence of the racism and sectarianism of the counter-demonstration is there for all to see.
We have since submitted a formal complaint to the police, calling on them to take action as no arrests were made on the day.
At the time of writing, we have had no response from Strathclyde Police. We have also been made aware that at least one member of the public has made a complaint to the police.
We will not rest, we will not give up.

KIRKINTILLOCH: March against Anti Irish racism on 21 March 

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