Amid the scenes of outrage and condemnation that have followed
the parcel bombs intended to rip Neil Lennon and several leading figures in Scottish public life to shreds, it is perhaps only surprising that
people are surprised by such sinister happenings.
If you read some of the literature penned about Lennon away from the mainstream media since he was proclaimed Celtic's manager last year, the latest sickening development to clamp itself
to the life and times of the Northern Irishman in Scotland has been brewing for
Lennon, anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism have
been thrown together in some sort of revolting concoction to produce a parcel bomb. In relation
to the general animosity towards Lennon, it is hardly melodramatic to suggest that
Scottish society entered the heart of darkness some time ago.
The result has produced what can be better described as an
assassination attempt on an innocent man's life. Before there was the nail bomb, there were the bullets in
the post to Lennon and Celtic's Northern Irish players Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn. Before he was sent bullets in the post, there was an
outpouring of constant verbal hatred that is likely to continue unabated. Lennon has been singled out for unnatural abuse for some time.
This had been left unchecked and seemingly unmonitored until Scottish
First Minister Alex Salmond vowed to dole out sentences to those stoking the flames
of this insane rage on the internet. The vocabulary employed in association with the name of
Lennon hinted at a perverse bloodlust for acts of unwarranted violence against Lennon. We have reached such a juncture, but this goes beyond the simple label of sectarian behaviour.
Now this assassination attempt has darkened the door of
Scottish society, the question Lennon and any sensible human being in Scotland
will probably be asking themselves is: where does this all end? where is this leading? Never forget that Lennon has already
suffered GBH in Glasgow, administered by two men in the city's west end a couple
of years ago.
Lennon is a young man with a young family who is trying his
hardest to do a job to the best of his ability. He is not being afforded his right as a human being to go about his business, whatever is said to the contrary.
British society prides itself on the right to free speech,
freedom of expression and a point of view, but this constitutional right has
been abused by some of the fantasists who discuss a man they have never met, or
know nothing about.
All that matters is that they share an irrational
hatred of what Lennon represents in his public life, of what he seems to be
about: a prominent and celebrated footballer, who happens to represent Celtic. A
prominent coach, who happens to be a Catholic from Northern Ireland.
A lot of media folk get a small taste of the bile Lennon
must endure when trying to make sense of all of this. It is impossible to evaluate unhinged thoughts. There would be a problem if you did understand it. Passing
an opinion in articles such as these tends to attract the lunatic fringe. Here
is one response from an anonymous figure posted when I warned about the dangers
Lennon was facing in Scotland back in January.
"Lennon is a bigot, a troublemaker and a bully and the
quicker he leaves our precious country the better for all, him and his kind are
not welcome here and he should be sent packing to where he belongs, in the
There are several shadier than this, but you get the general
theme. Lennon was no shrinking violet as a player. If he was playing for you, he would be worshipped for his
passion. If he was playing against you, he would perhaps get up your nose.
where the sporting debate ends, and something altogether more worrying begins.
The treatment of Lennon in Scotland goes beyond the call of disliking a
player's traits or characteristics. Youth players at Clyde and Berwick Rangers have been sacked for making distressing comments about Lennon on the internet. Youth players at St Mirren and Motherwell are apparently being investigated. This problem goes beyond Glasgow.
Lennon is loathed for more than being a footballer. Trish
Godman, a 71-year-old MP who is serving her country in the Scottish Parliament,
and Paul McBride QC, a figure who is serving his country in the judicial system,
were also sent parcel bombs. It seems that there is a dislike for their
emotional attachment to Celtic. "This individual must understand that you can never silence people
in a democracy with bombs," said McBride this morning. "The irony for me
is that I have represented some of the worst murderers and child killers in
this country and have received nothing but praise for being a decent lawyer.
"You represent someone who has done nothing wrong and you
are in receipt of the vilest abuse imaginable."
A worrying line that continues to be trotted out by critics
of Lennon "is that he brings it upon himself". This is quite a
disturbing thought that seems to have a deeper meaning. What exactly has he
brought upon himself? 24-hour security? Nail bombs? A fearful partner with
child? If this is the face of an enlightened Scotland in 2011, we are all going
to hell in a handcart.
It is important to stress that this incident has nothing to
do with Rangers. They are the victims in all of this as much as Celtic. The
Rangers manager Walter Smith and his assistant Ally McCoist joined the Prime Minister David
Cameron and the UEFA president Michel Platini in rubbing their eyes almost in astonishment. The main issue at stake is that you are not dealing with individuals projecting a sense of decorum.
Celtic are only an emblem for an anti-Catholic and
anti-Irish racism that strikes at the heart of Scotland, a crippling attitude
that paints Scottish society as a backward, intolerant, stinking toilet of
Celtic are a club who have won awards from UEFA and FIFA abroad. They are regarded as having the best group of fans in world football by the former Barcelona president Joan Laporta, but seem to be unwelcome on their own doorstep.
Living away from all of this, I can assure you that this is
not playing out well outside of the country. With the summer season upon us,
the sort of adverse publicity this is attracting will damage Scottish tourism
as much as it rubbishes the image of a country that is supposedly tolerant,
all-inclusive and forward-thinking. Tourism contributes over £5 billion to the
Scottish economy, but the negative publicity could affect seasonal work in
Scotland at a time when people can ill afford to be without income.
The digest in Los Angeles and
Toronto has been riddled with this news. In London, they look at you with a kind of sympathetic shake of the
head. For the first time in one's life, it is not difficult to feel ashamed of
where you come from. Who would want to visit a country that is afflicted by such
an illness? To the outside world looking in, Scotland appears to be a Christian country that is anti-Christian.
Scotland is a country blighted by ailments ranging from anti-social issues, alcohol abuse, long-term unemployment and problematic cancer rates. The scourge of racism is as prevalent, but the country needs it like a hole in the head.
The match between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday is only a
football match, despite the obsession by some ignoramuses to take some deeper meaning out of it. Nobody
can quite fathom or understand the amount of hatred it must take for some
defective mind to go to the trouble of constructing a letter bomb with the
intention of blowing someone apart.
This is a time when all decent human beings, far less Scots,
must display a unity and solidarity. The eyes of the outside world are watching
Scotland when Celtic visit Rangers on Sunday. This is a time for harmony in society. One must hope it is not a forlorn hope.
It would be no surprise if Lennon packs his bags to escape from Glasgow at the end of the season. Some will say it is a pity that Celtic
cannot join him to be rid of such a ghastly environment. Sadly, both critics and
supporters of the club would share this view.
If Lennon is forced to leave his job, he will have reached a form of unwanted martyrdom. The stench from such a plague is not worth considering. Neil Lennon would be remembered as a man that Scottish society could not tolerate.