14 May 1998 Edition
Questions over police handling of sectarian attack
By Fern Lane
The shambolic handling by Glasgow police of the attempted murder of Celtic fan Sean O'Connor continues apace.
Sean, who narrowly escaped death last November when his throat was cut by Rangers supporter Thomas Longstaff in a sectarian attack, discovered last week that the charge of attempted murder against Longstaff has been dropped. Longstaff was arrested and charged in January after boasting about the incident around loyalist bars in Glasgow.
He pleaded guilty and was due to stand trial on 20 May.
The reason Glasgow police are offering for this turn of events is that their main witness, Paddy Keenan, has gone missing. However, An Phoblacht has learned that Longstaff was taken into protective custody on his release, a fact which raises suspicions that police offered him a deal of immunity in exchange for information. Certainly, the argument about their missing witness is a dubious one; there were at least 20 other people in the immediate vicinity of the attack, all of whom witnessed the attempt on Sean's life. Police claim, however, that they did not take statements from any of them, nor from those present in the pub where he was taken immediately afterwards. Even if this is true, it merely demonstrates breathtaking negligence on their part, as well as their manifest antipathy to Celtic fans in general. Further, the fact that Longstaff pleaded guilty would have negated the need for witnesses in any case.
All this is symptomatic of the attitude with which the police have approached the case and its wider implications from the start. For example, when Sean was taken, bleeding heavily, into the nearby pub, two police officers who were present refused to either call an ambulance for him or to take him to hospital themselves. When the paramedic who attended Sean expressed his concern that sectarian incidents of this nature were becoming alarmingly commonplace and that the police were doing nothing about it, he was treated with the same contempt. Police have continued to deny any sectarian motive for that attack and others; even the recent murder of another young Celtic fan, knifed after he got off the match bus in Motherwell was reported as being ``completely random and motiveless''.
Nevertheless, Detective Superintendent Stuart Waugh of Glasgow police still suggested to the press after Sean's stabbing that Celtic fans were bringing the attacks on themselves by walking through loyalist areas wearing colours, saying ``Why bring trouble on yourself when you don't need to?''. In other words, anyone wearing a Celtic shirt is asking for it. Apart from adding insult to injury, this conveniently ignored the fact that Sean was directed into the area by the police shortly before he was attacked.
Bobby Sands remembered in Glasgow
On Sunday 3 May republicans in Glasgow commemorated the 17th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands MP.
The march was organised by the west of Scotland Band Alliance, and assembled in the Irish community area The Gorbals.
Through the glorious sunshine five republican flute bands led 300 supporters to the Queen's Park. The Jim Larkin RFB had travelled from Liverpool to lead the procession and although there was constant harrassment from the Strathclyde Police, the bands remained disciplined.
Following the march, main speaker and friend and comrade of Bobby Sands, Tomboy Loudon, adressed a well attended rally in the Clada club. He appealed for unity in the very testing days and weeks ahead. However, the audience made it clear that they were already firmly behind the leadership.
That night a function organised by the Scottish Prisoners' Dependants Fund was a great success. The west of Scotland Band Alliance wish to thank all those who contributed to this success.