Aiden McGeady takes centre stage

All writing is shorthand.

Characters in a drama are often a metaphors created by the writer to tell a wider truth.

A fictional account of Scotland’s bad attitude towards her own Irish would require a character like Aiden McGeady.

In him you have the nexus of the various strands of this sadly acceptable racism in Fair Caledonia.

I have called anti-Irish racism in the land of my birth “a blemish on an otherwise fair minded country”.

I wrote those words some years ago and I still hold them to be true, but I wish it were otherwise.

McGeady chose to play for Ireland because he feels Irish.

In any other country in the developed world where the Irish settled would be perfectly acceptable.

Other international football teams have heritage players qualifying by a parent or grandparent.

In the eyes of some in Scotland it is the country of choice that is the true crime.

Looking at the ‘McGeady playing for Ireland in Glasgow story’ without refracting it through the prism of anti-Irish racism is to be a close associate of nonsense.

I seriously doubt that this  piece in the Irish Examiner would  get past editorial in any major title in Glasgow despite the fact that the journalist is now a newly appointed  editor herself in city.

Just like with the Famine Song controversy in 2008 the vast majority of the hacks in Glasgow have shown themselves not fit for purpose.

Hypocrisy is often a fashion accessory for racists.

There are players who have not been born in Scotland who have worn the dark blue  jersey with pride.

Richard Gough first saw the light of day in Sweden and had the phonetics of the Broederbond stamped on his young tongue.

However he felt Scottish and qualified to play for the country of his parents.

I doubt that was an issue in Sweden or even in the land that reared him, South Africa.

At least in this piece Graham Spiers appropriately deploys the rarely used term “anti-Irish racism” to put some sociological context into this story.

The publicly funded NGOs in Scotland tasked with ridding the national game of racism have been, at best, squeamish about acknowledging the oldest and most durable racism in Scottish football.

If I can borrow the word of Scotland’s newly resigned First Minister, anti-Irish racism is woven into the fabric of the nation.

Before there was a black a brown face on the streets of a Scottish city the Irish were cast as other, as alien.

As late as 1953 the Church of Scotland in an official report refereed to the Irish in Scotland as “an alien race”.

The year later the Scottish Football Association respectfully requested that Celtic take down the Irish tricolour.

For generations Celtic Park was the only safe place for any public expression of Irishness in 20th century Scotland.

Given the geographical and cultural closeness of the two nations over centuries it makes this xenophobia all the tragic and risible in equal amounts.

However the reality of anti-Irish racism at street level today is no laughing matter.

What remains is a residual attitudinal discrimination that prevents the full expression of an Irish identity that every other part of the diaspora enjoys.

The local Good Ol Boys display all the hatred of their brethren below the Mason Dixon line.

Since the Famine Song appeared in 2008 the reflex action of many on Sports Desks in Glasgow was to minimise and mitigate on behalf of the Genocide Choir at Ibrox.

Thankfully the criminal justice system in Scotland, using that Caledonian precision, clearly saw though the guff about ‘banter’ and ruled in June 2009 that this new addition to the Rangers song book was racist and ipso facto illegal.

In 2011 Scotland played Northern Ireland at the Aviva stadium in Dublin as part of the Carling Cup.

I was asked by the competition organisers to write a piece for the match programme.

I styled the match as a “sporting tussle between cousins”.

I would write pretty much the same words to describe this meeting tonight between Scotland and the Republic of Ireland at Celtic Park.

During the Independence Referendum campaign the national conversation was hugely positive for the development of a society where everyone in Scotland can be proud to be part of a new Scotland.

The denial and denigration of the Second Generation Irish identity is the glue that binds the klan together in Scotland.

It is a very localised neurosis.

It is the same world view that sees no problem in erecting Ku Klux Klan flags on lamp posts in east Belfast.

These are conjoined islands and there are a myriad of familial and cultural relationships within the people of this archipelago.

The Ulster country where I live and the city where I was born have deep and genuine connections.

I know many a few folk called McGeady here and they might well be related to the lad himself.

In Donegal you’re never far from a relative of someone with a Glasgow postcode.

I fully realise that I am guilty of the same cultural crime that McGeady has been indicted for.

I was born in Glasgow, but I also felt Irish.

This is something that has legal validity from an organisation called the United Nations.

I am sure that there are many in the home crowd at Celtic Park tonight who would love to have the opportunity to travel the world on a Scottish passport and be recognised as Scots and not some variant of Briton.

I hope that the new Scotland that I saw developing in Independence Square in Glasgow last September will one day have enough self-confidence to allow the cultural space to allow and celebrate expressions of Irishness.

My kin in the USA never had this issue in their country of birth.

Italians born in Scotland were not told to shed their Italian nationality.

So let’s take Catholicism off the table as some ‘explanation’ for the social exclusion that many called McCarthy, McGeady have had to suffer down the generations in Scotland.

The cultural crime of McCarthy and McGeady is their country of choice.

Young James is injured and will play no part tonight, but Aiden will be there in the green of Ireland.

McGeady is a bête noire for the klan simply because of his clear affection and connection he has had for Ireland since early childhood.

I get that.

I’ve got it too.

In any other country but Scotland this would not be an issue.

In fact for other national minorities in the country of my birth it is not a problem.

Had Aiden spent his summer holidays in Genoa and not Gaoth Dobhair and declared for Italy rather than Ireland then he not be the hate figure that he is.

Anti-Irish racism is something that many decent people in Scotland would rather was something unpleasant in the history books, like wee boys being pushed up chimneys.

This match should be a hotly contested event on the field with good natured rivalry in the stands.

It should have the feel of the Gah about it.

However, if there are some racists among the Scottish crowd and they give voice to their atavistic hatred of this embodiment of Glaswegian Irishness in front of them then I know they are not representative of a fine country.

It is the death rattle of an old culture in a city that in September voted to leave the United Kingdom.

If McGeady scores the winner tonight then it could not have been scripted better.

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