Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Why we must never let the bigots win

Neil Lennon is not a perfect human being, any more than the rest of us. He is as combative off the field as he was on it. Just witness his recent touchline rant with Ally McCoist of Rangers. .

The Celtic manager doesn't really care if he makes friends or not. He has a sense of anger about him and a streak of toughness. Little wonder after what he has had to endure

He was forced off the Northern Ireland international team by death threats. He was attacked in the street in Glasgow.

He has been sent bullets, and now letter bombs, in the post.

Clearly he has a lot of enemies, people who hate him enough to move beyond mere abuse to actual real threats to his life.

The letter bombs were viable devices.

Fortunately they were intercepted without harm to anyone.

Anyone with any sense of right and wrong must instantly, and without reservation, condemn these attacks on the Celtic manager, just as they would condemn them on any other person.

They are simply the manifestation of a bigotry which has attached itself to Glasgow's Old Firm football clubs, Celtic and Rangers, and which refuses to wither in spite of every effort to condemn or ostracise the bigots.

We know all too well the dangers of allowing such sectarianism to fester.

Indeed there are many who say that a lot of bigotry surrounding the Old Firm rivalry is imported from Northern Ireland in the boat loads of fans who regularly make the trip to Glasgow games.

Once that bigotry is overlaid on an historically violent and sectarian city it is little wonder that trouble is a regular occurrence when the two teams clash.

Neil Lennon is a very different person from the previous Northern Ireland man to manage Celtic, Martin O'Neill, but like him, he is an example of how to maximise one's given talents.

Instead of a hate figure, Lennon should be hailed as a role model, even with all his apparent imperfections.

It will take all his undoubted courage - and the support of his family - to enable him to continue in his current managerial role.

If he is forced to leave it will be simply a victory for the bigots.

It is sometimes easy to turn a blind eye to the fanaticism of football fans, believing that it doesn't really have an echo in the wider society, but that cannot be the case when it comes to Old Firm rivalry.

These vile threats to Lennon's life should spur politicians in Scotland to redouble their efforts to tackle the cancer of sectarianism which blights the reputation of a city and its two famous football clubs.


From Belfast Telegraph