When historians come to assess the scale and depth of anti-Irish racism in 21st century Scotland the name of Jon Daly will undoubtedly figure in any authoritative work on the subject.
When I started writing about the anti-Irish racism prevalent among a section of Rangers supporters in 2008 highlighted by the Famine Song controversy, it was pointed out to me that the Ibrox club didn’t have any players in their first team squad from the Republic of Ireland.
The analogy with clubs in England a generation ago who had racist fans and no black players was apposite.
As black players became ubiquitous in the upper echelons of English soccer by and large the racist abuse of players of colour died out.
Yet in Scotland in the 21st century it was possible for a top flight football club to have fans who would target an ethnic minority, incessantly telling them to ship out, while the club itself had no players from that nationality and a mainstream media which remained largely silent on the issue.
When Daly’s move to Sevco was discussed recently on Radio Scotland, journalist Tom English, an Irishman himself, said that he found it “curious” that the Dundee United man would become the first Republic of Ireland player in the first team at Ibrox.
In recent years many callers into Clyde 1 Superscoreboard brought up the glaring issue that Rangers had managed to sign players of many nationalities yet not one from the Republic of Ireland.
I cannot recall any of those callers being engaged with on that point.
The only time I heard the term ‘anti-Irish racism’ being used on that show was by Graham Spiers and it caused a stony silence in the studio.
The signing of Alan Smith was a major step forward for a club which had among its support people who would spit hatred at the nation of the young keeper.
The young goalie was signed for the Ibrox youth team in 2010 and I stated at the time that the real test would be for Rangers to sign a Republic of Ireland player for their first team.
The club expired last year before that could happen and now the tribute act, serving the same customer base, has signed a first team player who has already wrapped himself in the Irish tricolour on a Scottish football field.
I remarked to a colleague in the NUJ here in Ireland – a person of colour and an African national, now an Irish citizen – that the racist issues at Rangers would be dealt with when any Irish player signing for Rangers was no big deal AND when that player could express their culture within the workplace.
So I do hope that Jon Daly can be fully culturally Irish at his new place of work.
What does that mean?
Well, picture the scene if you will of Jon Daly driving into Murray Park for training wearing a Football Association of Ireland (FAI) top and having the Saw Doctors blasting out of the car.
He parks up and is greeted as a team mate and colleague without a second glance at what he is wearing or the Irish music he has brought into his workplace.
I don’t know if Jon Daly ever wears the national football jersey of his country or if he likes those fellas from Galway but if he does expressing his Irishness in this way should not be a problem.
There is faux outrage and wounded feelings currently being expressed across social media at the very suggestion that the denizens of the Copeland Road end ever harboured anything remotely resembling anti-Irish racism.
However, only yesterday an article by Tom English in Scotland on Sunday about how Ibrox had become an “Odditorium” provoked this post the same day on Follow Follow:
“Re: Tom English: Ibrox is now an Odditorium
Dear Tom, your home country might have collectively spunked Billions of £££s in handouts from the EU and the UK recently and yet still left yourselves in a worse financial state than you’ve ever been in before, but there is no failing of potato crops.
Why don’t you go home and check for youself? I will be quite pleased to escort you…”
This genuflection to multiculturalism came from ‘True Blue 1972’, who apparently is a ‘Gold Star Poster’ with 2,254 posts.
Would any of this repatriation opprobrium be aimed at the author of that piece if he had not been Irish?
Perhaps Mr English will find his ethnicity being the basis for the criticism of him as merely ‘curious’.
I find it yet more evidence of the casual acceptance of anti-Irish racism as a part of the cultural common sense of The People.
Of course, a player’s nationality should be the last thing under consideration when offering him a contract.
Modern clubs now have a veritable united nations taking the field for them and the market in soccer talent has, like most others things, been globalised.
When Celtic were awarded the Scottish Premier League title at Parkhead recently the players partied on the pitch and I saw the flags of Honduras, Ireland, Kenya and Nigeria.
Is Jon Daly’s national banner welcome on the pitch at Ibrox?
If Sevco survive long enough to win the SFL Division Two title next May will the Dubliner be able to wrap himself in the flag of his country on the turf at Ibrox?
Moreover, if he does so will the home crowd cheer their Irish hero or will they tell him that the Famine is over?