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Green Brigade wrong to bring IRA slogans into Celtic Park

The Green Brigade's display before the Champions League game with Milan at Celtic Park
The Green Brigade’s display before the Champions League game with Milan at Celtic Park



AS Neil Lennon walked out to take in the atmosphere for what turned out to be Celtic’s last European game at Parkhead this season against Milan, his “heart sank” when he saw banners of William Wallace and IRA Hunger Striker Bobby Sands held aloft beside the words: “The terrorist or the dreamer, the savage or the brave, depends whose vote you’re trying to catch or whose face you’re trying to save.”

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No one could argue with the colour, dynamic and humour the Green Brigade have brought to Celtic Park since the group emerged back in 2006 but this stunt affected the Celtic manager deeply — and the majority of supporters.

Lennon acknowledged that you could feel the “subdued” atmosphere adding that Celtic supporters are “fed up of it”. He also had this to say: “It certainly wasn’t the time or the place for a display like that.

“There’s no place for it. It should’ve been a celebration rather than people having a grumble about something.

“When I came in here, I tried to bring the club together again. I think we’ve done that, certainly with the performances over the last three of four years, so it’s disappointing to see that some people want to bring cracks in amongst the club.”

Uefa will now begin disciplinary action against Celtic.

At the previous home game against Aberdeen, fans held aloft a large ‘H’ symbol — representing the Maze Prison block where 10 Republicans died on hunger strike in 1981, including Bobby Sands.

Next to that were words from Flower of Scotland: “They fought and died for their wee bit hill and glen.”

In the aftermath SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “We are looking at that and as soon as we are in a position to comment further we’ll do so.”

There are often religious or political related banners at Celtic Park. You could argue that flags featuring Brother Walfrid are religious and that the club’s very beginning is a political happening.

Many other clubs also have songs and banners that could fall into these categories. Celtic and the support have had to fight to keep their Irish history and identity alive.

neil lennon-n
Celtic boss Neil Lennon

But it’s when the Green Brigade enter into the politics specifically associated with The Troubles of the 1970s and ’80s that they get Celtic into bother and alienate their fellow fans.

The image of Bobby Sands polarises Celtic fans and stirs up a variety of feelings and emotions.

Celtic supporter Terry Francis, 49, of West Lothian said: “The Bobby Sands story is one I grew up with, it’s in living memory and many Catholics in Scotland related and identified with it.

“That said, I don’t think the Green Brigade should be waving a flag with Bobby on it at the game. We’re going through a peace process, only last month people in Scotland were arrested for planning acts of terrorism in relation to dissident Irish republicanism.

“I don’t know what the motivation is for the flag but the biggest part of Celtic fans don’t want to see it at the game. I understand what the Green Brigade are trying to do but I don’t agree with it.

“With all respect to them, they’ve got this one wrong: you can’t pair up an event from 1305 and one from 1981, it doesn’t scan.”

The politics of Nationalism doesn’t feel like the right fit for Celtic, whether it’s Scottish or Irish. When the fans raise awareness of the club’s history, charitable roots or the oppressed that is something the majority of supporters and the club will get behind.

The Green Brigade have previously won the support of Neil Lennon who has publicly singled them out for praise; now he’s visibly exasperated with fans who continue to associate Celtic with the IRA.

Speaking in June, Celtic director Michael McDonald, while acknowledging the unique atmosphere they bring, said this: “There are parts I disagree with.

“Put simply we are from an Irish background and the bulk of our supporters are Roman Catholic but we are open to everyone, we don’t care what religion you are born into or how you vote in the election, we welcome everyone.

“Sometimes I feel that is a little bit lost among a more hard-core element.”

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell accused the ultras group of damaging the club’s reputation. He described the banners as “nothing more than clear disrespect for the club”.

The Green Brigade issued a statement in response saying: “As the number of Celtic fans banned from games continues to grow and the court cases and all additional baggage piles up, we will stand by them, we will stand with the Celtic support and as always we will defend our right to cultural and political expression.”

With neither side willing to give any ground, it looks as though this display could signal the end of the Green Brigade. In August the club announced it was to close section 111 (where they are situated) due to fan behaviour and started to relocate supporters.

After a turnaround it is unlikely Celtic will renege a second time if they are pushed.

That undoubtedly would be damaging because, when they avoid the IRA, the Green Brigade have transformed the atmosphere at Celtic Park; they have brought back long-forgotten terrace anthems and created some of the most memorable and astonishing displays in European football while bolstering season books sales for the club during a time of severe austerity.

The past eight years without them is unimaginable.


Richard Purden is the author of We Are Celtic Supporters and Faithful Through and Through



Richard Purden is a freelance contributor to the Irish Post and the author of two books - We Are Celtic Supporters and Faithful Through and Through

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21 comments on “Green Brigade wrong to bring IRA slogans into Celtic Park”

  1. Gearoid O'Conghaile

    Think who ever wrote this article, really needs to go and research the issue around the banners, research why its OK in Scotland to sing about Scottish freedom fighters (Wallace- Flower of Scotland etc)but you are criminalised if you sing about Irish ones.

  2. Danny Boyle

    Spare us the finger waving richard. The banner was in response to the implementation of the offensive behaviour bill, a scandelous piece of legislation which has criminalised a dynamic of the Irish communities political identity. A political identity which had already suffered the indignity of being 'sectarianised'. Celtic fc is dripping in politics from serving british cabinet lords on the board, refusal to pay the living wage to the emblazing of the contentious poppy on the clubs shirt. It is worth noting that only one political ideology is the subject of outrage, condemnation, legislation, arrest and grandstanding. Surely the franchise of the peace process and dialogue extends to the irish community in scotland? This is the same fans group who carried the 'refugees welcome' banner, 'solidarity with palestine'. Religious banners, very loose link there and showing an abject missunderstanding or ignorance of the GB's politics.

  3. mick

    at end of the day celtic have nothing to do with this ira stuff and all u see is some celtic fans use all this stuff its annoying coz celtic have nothing to do with all this crap certain peeps keep bring in to the game im personally sick of all this rubbish

  4. Michael

    This shows up how useless this banner was into highlighting the offensive behaviour act. Everyone is talking about IRA and giving history lessons rather than it being about the behaviour act.

    Green Brigade have shown themselves up in this instance and lost a lot of admirers in the process, including myself. But that wont matter to them, the narrow minded nature of the people involved and their hardcore supporters will denounce anyone who is critical of them.

  5. Michael Reilly

    The Green Brigade not only add colour and vibrancy to the atmosphere during Celtic matches but, epitomise all that is good about the historical links between Celtic and Ireland. Have the irish or Irish descendants living presently in Scotland to be ashamed of their history or the events that have helped shaped the present Ireland? Celtic as a club should be more supportive of this section. Celtic supporters have always been politically active and as a club politics have always be to the forefront.

  6. Willhelm

    When Celtic fans sing about murdering the people who fed, housed, educated and employed their ancestors, as they have been doing, the indigenous population have every right to be angry.

    If they support their club, no one cares. When they sing about killing my neighbours, brothers and cousins, then we Scots will react.

    • billy

      o you fed us gave us homes did you what a bloody joke you are the antie irish bigotry that goes on in scotland towards irish catholics is disgusting dont come on here making out the irish had it easy they didnt you loyalists wannabe brits hated us fact you sing songs about the famine your just another bigot hiding behind your pc acting out your a saint your not your a loyalist bigot dont class yourself a scot your loyal to england not scotland.

  7. Niall Gordon

    I am a Scottish Highlander - and by that I mean that was where I was born - and have no side with 90-minute nationalists. This is nothing to do with a wee game o' men running around chasing a wee ball as the famous prophetess Mrs Doyle would say!

    Tapadh leibh / go raibh maith agaibh / ta.

  8. L. McPeake

    Surely John Hume would have been a better bet to make the point than Bobby Sands, Hume was a Celtic supporter and Nobel peace prize winner. The man is a hero. Point was poorly made by the G.B, lost my support and many others. Now we have a fine to look forward to. Anyone who thinks the I.R.A were not sectarian is a liar to themselves. Bobby was in the IRA. Go figure. Wasn't it Jock Stein who waded in against I.R.A chanting? We have enough "heritage and culture" without reference to Bobby Sands. I'm sure Rangers fans would say "Billy Boys" is cultural too but I don't want to hear it! It's time to stop being cute and get behind Celtic, if you don't want to do that, then make your point under another forum, it's not welcome at Celtic Park. As the article points out, people were arrested in Scotland for planning a terrorist attack connected with dissident republicanism in October... is that the kind of society you want to live in? The history of Scottish nationalism has taken a very different path to that of Ireland. This is why the banner by the G.B does not make any sense. Can we get back to supporting Celtic now?

  9. Vinnie

    Michael Reilly - Another clown who thinks the Celtic support was nothing before the Gree(ti)n Brigade, these clowns have their own agenda and have no real interest in Celtic's values or history.

    Celtic was formed by Irish immigrants but not just for the poor from Ireland but for all of the poor in Glasgow's east end, a club open to ALL not a sports club for the IRA.

    • martin

      I agree with vinnie. I went to parkhead before the Green Brigade and the atmosphere was unbelievabl Especially on european nights. I went on the Milan game and the atmosphere was flat. First time I've experienced that as a supporter. The GB don't make parkhead great the supporters do.

      • Boaby

        Plenty of Celtic "supporters" who have a say ... they go to European nights but the Green Brigade went to every game and sang, danced and put their hearts into supporting the team for 90 minutes EVERY week!!!

        The banners, songs and politics are part of something which is "more than a club".

        The club have profited from the Green Brigade. Just watch the atmosphere, attendances drop even further than what they have been doing every since the Green Brigaders started getting life bans.

        The club is in the wrong hands. The atmosphere before the Green Brigade each week was as the Aberdeen supporters once sung at Celtic Park "boring!" aimed at Celtic Supporters who had been outsung so many times before the Green Brigade gave us 90 mins of atmosphere and some entertainment.

  10. john fegan

    The GB are in a wee world of their own. Do they think they speak for the rest of us, a heads up boys, you don't.
    I am and always will be pro republican but I take my actions and protests to places where they will do some good. That is not the terraces of my beloved Celtic Park.
    I am now approaching 70 and have fought for the cause politically, and on Glasgow's streets probably long before you wee GB activists(?) were born.
    Grow up for God's sake and take that energy you obviously have to the political arena where you might be taken seriously. Celtic Park is ours , not yours.

  11. Jenny Gallagher

    Michael Reilly-What a sly and cowardly comment, what if it was your family maimed or murdered. What a foolish question "do the Irish and Irish derived living in Scotland need to feel ashamed of history." Have some guts and gumption man, can you not define yourself today in the context of the here and now. Ireland has moved on from a violent and troubled past, so should you. Celtic are right to stand up to this rubbish. The politics of violence will never be part of the club's story.

  12. Michael Reilly

    Vinnie - the Celtic support have always had a political conscience, particularly in support of the minority discriminated against. The Green Brigade are being victimised and the reason for the display was to highlight the differing attitudes being portrayed in Scotland with regard to Scottish Nationalism and Irish Nationalism. Sometimes what people write, talk or sing about might not be to our own liking but, that is what free speech is all about. As long as it is not deliberately offensive. Celtic is and always has been open to all. Everyone should be entitled to be heard without being offensively attacked for doing so. Send in the clowns!!!!

  13. John

    I still can't see the IRA banner, do you mean the Bobby Sands MP banner ! Bobby Sands was a Poet, a Writer , a Father , a Son , a Brother , a Comrade a leader and a freedom fighter.
    Bobby Sands also wrote the song "Back Home in Derry ", so is it the next thing to be banned in Scotland , can we even sing or say his name !
    Some Celtic supporters are being criminalised for singing Irish ballads that have been sang for over a hundred years, all over the World.
    They are songs of freedom and fighting for your freedom , none of the songs talk about killing or murdering anyone, just like ( Flower of Scotland ) they fought and died.
    The GB have took a stand in high lighting this racist ,anti Irish , offensive behaviour bill .
    Not in a football match then ( no minute silence or standing applause ) for anyone from outside football, No British soldiers at football matches or collections for them or politial groups , politicians to stay out of football ( re Alex Sommon , servo affair )no enforcement of political symbolls ( Poppy's ) , no donations to club or any politial party's or the British legion !!!
    We can all be offended if we want too, our irish culture and background should not be a tool for the Scottish goverment to criminalise us.

  14. Aine Rua

    Why the surprise when ever Irish is mentioned in the UK there is uproar we've lived with this anti irish behaviour for centuries thats why so many perished in the great Famine. Fair play to the green Brigade they could have also included Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela in thatgroup as well , as the quote basically says one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter so you can link any time scales together .

    • martin

      Aine as you say they could have used Mandela or Luther king but they unfortunately they never. Total pr own goal!

  15. Michael Reilly

    Jenny - without a past you will have no future. Only by realising the mistakes that have been made, on all sides can things move forward. People should not be afraid to discuss their past or be victimised for doing so. Ireland, thankfully has moved on. If it was for not for the sacrifices made on all sides this would not be the situation. It does not mean that you should airbrush all of history to live in the present. Unfortunately, throughout history, sometimes violence has been necessary to arrive at a peaceful conclusion.

  16. William

    I agree with Jenny. Maybe the Green Brigade should form a political party instead? I don't think Jenny is denying the past, the point is that the banner is associated with a violent time in Ireland's history. And anyway, the place for a debate on Nationalism is not Celtic Park and most fans agree, the violence at Fir Park proved that this is a dangerous group and we know nothing about who is pulling the strings. How could Celtic let that continue? In a civilised society perhaps we can agree that certain viewpoints present danger, the link between Ireland and violent Nationalism is not yet history.

  17. Michael Reilly

    The point of the banner was to highlight the discrimination being shown towards Celtic supporters with regard to singing about freedom fighters or terrorists (dependent upon your point of view) from an historical perspective. From what I gather there was no violence inside Fir Park, there was damage of seating and smoke bombs etc. I do not believe there is any sinister plot behind any Celtic supporter grouping, no strings being pulled! The violence that has been brought upon Ireland over the centuries has not yet ended, unfortunately.


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