An attack on a journalist is an attack on journalism.
David Francis Limond, a Rangers supporting podcaster, went on trial in November this year charged with communicating threatening material with the intention of stirring up religious hatred.
The victim of Limond’s crime was my book editor Ms Angela Haggerty.
She came to the attention of Mr Limond when she stepped into the public arena in September 2012 after the Sun newspaper pulled a planned serialisation of my book, Downfall, following a campaign of intimidation.
He encouraged listeners during his ‘Rangers Chat’ online radio show on 20 September last year to harass her on social media and the language he used to describe Ms Haggerty was abusive, discriminatory and threatening.
This was not a personal dispute between two people, but an action from someone with a new media platform and an established listenership targeting a journalist for doing her job.
At Ayr Sheriff Court a just decision was arrived at after two days of evidence and cross examination by Sheriff Scott Pattison.
On Friday 6 December, David Limond was found guilty of the charge committing a religiously aggravated breach of the peace.
He was bailed and ordered to appear on 9 January 2014 for sentencing.
I have a vested interest in this case as I was mentioned in court during evidence.
Mr Limond’s defence counsel wanted to know what the “pensioner” references in Mr Limond’s podcast were about.
Ms Haggerty said in her sworn evidence that what Mr Limond was making reference to on his podcast was a fabrication invented from within a section of Rangers supporters to smear me when I had started writing about the Famine Song in 2008.
He is not the author this defamatory allegation, but he certainly was a rather relentless purveyor of it through his podcasting.
During my work on the racist Famine Song a thread appeared on the Follow Follow website claiming that the ‘real’ reason for my decision to emigrate to Ireland in the 1990s was that I was fleeing from a terrible scandal connected to my job as a social worker.
The entire objective of the exercise was to smear me and invalidate my own truthful reason for choosing life in Ireland as opposed to residing in the country of my birth.
The simple truth (always kryptonite for the klan) was that my wife and I decided, as our son reached the milestone age of four years, that we did not want to rear him and his one-year-old sister in Scotland.
When we learned that baby number three was on the way, our minds were made up.
Our brood would grow in Ireland.
I wanted Mayo, she wanted Donegal.
I’m writing this in Donegal.
You get the idea….
When I wrote in 2008 in the Irish Post that the sub culture that created and sang the Famine Song made me glad that my wife and I had made the decision to leave Scotland in 1996, it was apparently too much for the klan.
They had to find a REAL reason for me moving to Ireland, something that diminished me and, in a sense, exonerated them.
It was the classic MO of the fascist underclass that is attached to the Ibrox brand.
And so the fabrication was born that when I was a social worker I was culpable in the death of an elderly person in Glasgow in the 1990s because I did not visit him.
It was the classic libel: a complete fabrication that damaged my reputation.
I have until now remained silent on this matter, although I did have my solicitor write to the moderator of the Follow Follow website, Mr Mark Dingwall, and to the hosting company several years ago.
It was made clear that there was absolutely no basis to these allegations which were being discussed on that message board as if they were established truth.
I knew that at some point an appropriate opportunity would arise to address these smears.
Mr Limond’s conviction does seem to be that opportunity.
The myth around me started when some inventive chap had found a story which involved the death of an elderly person from the area of Glasgow where I had been a social worker.
However, my social work post involved me working exclusively with offenders, convicted criminals, people like Mr Limond.
The Twitter abuse that Ms Haggerty suffered immediately after Mr Limond’s podcast heavily focused on her association with a ‘pensioner killer’.
Anyone who was morally intact would see that this was an appalling smear and would have proffered an apology to me for having any part in disseminating this Orwellian lie.
However, when one is attempting to put manners on an underclass imbued with a Herrenvolk hubris, it is wise not to expect normal decency.
Angela later remarked to me that the podcast in question was more about me than her.
Mr Limond’s obsession with me and my work seemed to have been incubating for some time.
Of course, The People do not know me and have never met me, but this is rather beside the point.
It is what they WANT to believe that is important to them and it is also highly instructive. It gives a window into their worldview.
During the attempt to bully Downfall out of the bookshops last year, I had more than a few uneasy moments when I learned of the abuse of shop staff and threats to people who had become professionally associated with the book and, ipso facto, me.
Ms Haggerty told the court of the threats to Sun journalist Simon Houston after he had interviewed me as part of the planned serialisation of Downfall.
I spoke to Simon the day his article appeared in the Sun and I heard the fear in his voice.
He simply said to me: “Phil, I’ve got a young family”.
Throughout this case I have felt responsible for the appalling abuse that was heaped onto Ms Haggerty during that time.
I asked her to edit Downfall and she did an exemplary job to a very tight deadline.
Having edited the book, she staunchly defended it after the Sun caved in to the klan and pulled the serialisation the paper had agreed with my publisher.
Angela wrote a piece for the late Paul McConville’s blog on the background to Sun serialisation story.
Then, on September 18, Mr David Leggat, an ex-journalist with a blog that is popular with Rangers supporters, published an article about Angela and provided details about her that had clearly gleaned from social media, including the small town where she lived.
Two days later, on 20 September 2012 – The Rangers Chat podcast went out.
The cowardice of the Sun in the serialization merely encouraged a belief among the klan that if they pushed hard enough they could make Downfall a very difficult-to-get book.
Thankfully they failed and it continues to be stocked in Glasgow book shops where it is a good seller.
Ms Haggerty was not the first journalist to be threatened by the Rangers underclass, but she is, as far as I am aware, the only member of my trade in Scotland to get justice through the courts.
For that, all journalists in Scotland and the nation that the Scottish Fourth Estate serves owe her a large debt of gratitude.
It would have been far easier for her to silently endure the hatred that Mr Limond was pouring out and remain at the back of the bus.
One line of defence presented in court was that Limond’s output about Ms Haggerty was comedic and satirical, but even the defence counsel conceded that the way in which Mr Limond referred to Angela was awful and offensive.
The podcast featured Angela in the ‘Taig of the day’ slot.
Yes, ‘Taig of the day’. As well as Taig of the day, she was described as ‘scum of the day’ and ‘Irish of the day’.
Just how long this racist snippet had been going on for is unclear, but the podcast had a pre-prepared jingle borrowing the tune of the British TV quiz show ‘blankety blank’.
The meaning of the word ‘Taig’ was central to the case.
The defence counsel for Limond Mr Calum Ross stated that the word had only figured once in the podcast.
When it was played in court it actually was used several times.
For the uninitiated, it is the equivalent of the ‘N’ word in America, but used for the Irish Catholics in the North of Ireland and in Scotland.
It is simultaneously racist and sectarian.
The Channel 4 broadcast of October 24th 2012 was the tipping point in this case and huge thanks are due to Alex Thomson and his colleagues at Channel 4 News.
I cannot imagine a Scottish news programme displaying such relentless courage to nail this underclass and their attempts to silence journalists doing their job.
The Channel 4 was of great assistance to the Police and this was acknowledged by the investigating officers in court during their evidence.
At present journalists in Scotland are, in the main, frightened of crossing the klan and this can be seen clearly in their work on matters Ibrox.
I hope other members of my trade who have been similarly targeted seek redress through the courts and that they are supported by their employers.
A shout out must go to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), who I know have been brilliant in supporting Angela throughout this ordeal.
This entire saga convinces me of the need for journalists like Angela Haggerty and Alex Thomson to keep on doing what they do.
Alex Thomson took time out from his current reporting in the awful events in the Central African Republic to email and text me on Friday to ask me how the case had gone.
This case was about an attempt to silence a journalist doing her job and the man from Channel 4 News got that in an instant.
Ms Haggerty is in her twenties and her generation of Irish Scots will not sit quietly at the back of the bus in Scotland.
That type of vilification and abuse was once just the accepted lot of people in Scotland who had committed the cultural crime of being of Irish heritage and reared in the Catholic tradition.
The internet age gives people like Mr Limond the opportunity to pour out their hatred to anyone who wishes to consume it.
Ms Haggerty is the type of person that the new Scotland should be proud of and want to keep.
She is professionally educated, hardworking, tax-paying and tolerant.
Angela was entirely correct to report David Limond for his podcast of September 20th 2012 and she has been fully vindicated by the guilty verdict last week.
I do not expect the klan to change their worldview any time soon as that is a long term educational process.
In the meantime we have to rely on the courts to put manners on them.
Sheriff Pattison warned Limond: “I view this as very serious, and I am strongly considering a custodial sentence.”
A journalist attending court said to me that Limond “looked shocked” when this was said.
As part of his bail conditions he was ordered to stay off Twitter and he agreed to delete his account in its entirety.
Over the festive period, Mr Limond will have time to consider that the historical moment when ‘Taigs’ in Scotland could be safely abused and vilified is over.
I am sure that Sheriff Pattison, after considering all the relevant facts of the case and the specifics of Limond’s background and social circumstances, will reach an appropriate disposal to this hate crime.
It must be one that sends a very strong message to those who think and behave like Mr Limond, because an attack on journalism is an attack on democracy.