Neil Lennon at Tynecastle

The ‘West Coast sectarian problem’ went on a wee holiday yesterday.

Fans from Aberdeen were in Edinburgh when Neil Francis Lennon was spat on and pelted with coins at Tynecastle.

The Irishman was forced to leave the match with 20 minutes still to play.

The Celtic manager was sitting in the main stand, which was occupied by Aberdeen fans.

He was there as part of his role as Celtic manager.

In 2011, Neil Lennon was attacked while he was doing his job at Tynecastle.

John Wilson assaulted him in front of millions of TV viewers.

However, the jury didn’t see it that way.

There isn’t anything normal about what happens to Neil Lennon within Scottish football, nor is it localised to some Glasgow feud.

I devoted an entire section of ‘Minority Reporter’ to the Celtic manager.

His treatment since he arrived in Scotland in 2000 as a player from Leicester city has been a case study in anti-Irish racism.

Sadly, the chaps in my trade who attend events put on by Show Racism The Red Card don’t see it that way.

Last night on BBC Radio Scotland the chaps in the studio bent themselves out of shape to come up with an explanation that didn’t involve them using the term ‘anti-Irish racism’.

Even more shameful is that the NGOs tasked with combatting racism in Scottish football have been, to be charitable to them, rather hesitant in identifying anti-Irish racism and condemning it.

From taxis in Glasgow to podcasts by Ibrox chaps, anti-Irish racism in modern Scotland has become normalised.

If I can paraphrase the First Minister when he was referring to a deceased football club, it is woven into the fabric of the nation.

Neil Francis Lennon has become a poster child for anti-Irish racism in modern Scotland.

The tragedy is that the Armagh man loves Scotland and is very complimentary of the country anytime he gets the chance.

He has a high opinion of the country his son was born in.

However, he has every reason to have a very low opinion of it.

The people who were throwing coins at Neil Lennon felt authorised to do so.

Whether they personally subscribe to a worldview that has a hatred of Irish people and Irishness within it we can’t know.

However, the demonisation of Neil Lennon in Scotland in the last 14 years, as a player and a manger, HAS been driven by anti-Irish racism.

If this became the incident that made him call time on his residency in Scotland his departure would leave a stain on an otherwise decent, fair-minded nation.

The decent folk in Scotland owe Neil Lennon for not letting the racists win.

Mumbled condemnation of this incident or the inevitable next one simply isn’t enough.

In fairness to Aberdeen FC they quickly issued this statement, but there is more, much more to be done.

The north east club certainly doesn’t have a klan underclass attached to it, quite the opposite.

However, the racist demonization of Neil Lennon in Scotland since he arrived here as a player in 2000 has implicitly authorised this type of behaviour even among people who are not themselves racists.

Quite simply it has become socially acceptable within football circles to vilify and target Neil Lennon.

His life in Scotland is a case study in how racism poisons everything.

People in positions of authority in Scotland must face up to the existence of anti-Irish racism.

At the moment they pretend it is a ‘sectarian’ problem and one that doesn’t exist east of Harthill.

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