Belfast Telegraph

I deal with bigots every week, Celtic boss Neil Lennon tells court

Neil Lennon has told a court he constantly experiences sectarianism and had been left “very disturbed” after finding out he had been the target of suspect packages sent through the post.

The Co Armagh-born Celtic manager was giving evidence at the trial of two men accused of plotting to kill him and other high-profile supporters of the club in an explosives plot.

Trevor Muirhead (43) from Kilwinning and Neil McKenzie (42) from Saltcoats, both Ayrshire, are on trial at Glasgow High Court accused of conspiring to murder Mr Lennon and other high-profile Celtic fans by sending them improvised explosive devices.

They deny all the charges against them.

Mr Lennon told the trial he had been made aware of the packages by police.

He said: “I was very disturbed. I have a family. I find it difficult to comprehend the lengths that some people will go to.”

Mr Lennon told the trial he had previously been sent bullets through the post and had decided to stop playing for Northern Ireland after receiving a death threat.

He also said he had experienced sectarianism as a player and a manager “nearly every week”.

He said Celtic “abhor” sectarianism and “try to do everything they can” to stop it.

The 40-year-old, who grew up in Lurgan, also told the court that some Celtic supporters tended to side with Irish republicanism.

But he said he could not speak for the majority of fans.

He told Advocate Depute Tim Niven-Smith: “I can't speak for Rangers supporters, you'll have to ask them yourself.

“I can't speak for the majority of Celtic fans either.”

Mr Lennon was also asked about his relationship with the late Paul McBride QC, who had represented Celtic on disciplinary matters, and who was also an alleged target of the plot.

He said the QC was a “very close friend”.

He was “huge, just a brilliant man and very inspirational”, Mr Lennon said.

After Mr Lennon finished his evidence, trial judge Lord Turnbull told the jury they should take Mr Lennon's “own views of Mr McBride's personal qualities” out of their mind when they came to reach their verdict.

He said it was “no criticism” of the Advocate Depute, or of Mr Lennon, but they should base their decision only on the evidence led, and not on sympathy for anyone involved in the case.

The trial continues today.

Belfast Telegraph

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