Belfast Telegraph

Bigotry is a poison we have to tackle

The Old Firm football match between Glasgow Celtic and Rangers passed off peacefully yesterday, despite apprehensions about further sectarian trouble.

The tension was heightened by the revelation last week that parcel bombs had been sent to the Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two supporters.

The potential for serious trouble yesterday was countered by a strong police presence, and an awareness among a large number of supporters of both clubs that further incitement could have very serious consequences.

Neil Lennon may not have helped the situation by his gestures to the taunts from some Rangers diehards at the end of the match, which were not as "humourous" as he claimed.

Sadly, the trouble between supporters of the two sides goes much further than football. It is symbolic of the deep bigotry which exists particularly in the west of Scotland.

To their credit, both the Rangers and Celtic clubs have tried hard to deal with the sectarianism which pollutes the game, and the Scottish government is also deeply concerned about a situation which tarnishes Glasgow and the wider society.

Clearly much more needs to be done to combat such deep-rooted sectarianism in Scotland. More attention needs to be given to education and to forming the right attitudes, as well as taking a fresh look at the penalties available to the courts for sectarian behaviour.

Some of the roots of this behaviour lie in Irish history, and we in Northern Ireland are in no position to preach to others.

Much more needs to be done to tackle sectarianism here, but if we have any lesson for others, it is to point to the corrosive and deeply damaging legacy of sectarianism within any society.

Whether in Scotland or Northern Ireland, sectarianism needs to be rooted out, and this will take time, clear-sightedness and determination. There is no easy solution, but this sectarian madness cannot be allowed to fester on.

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