Celtic chairman John Reid today condemned as “racist” one of the songs chanted by Rangers fans at the recent Old Firm derby.
Reid, who also warned he would not tolerate offensive chanting by his own club’s supporters, has written to Hoops fans about the controversy which erupted after last month’s clash between the sides.
Celtic supporters contacted the club to complain about the 'Famine Song' chanted by sections of the Rangers following during their 4-2 victory at Parkhead on August 31.
The Ibrox club have since asked their fans to refrain from singing the song, which refers to the famine which killed an estimated one million people in the 1840s and set in motion the mass migration of Irish people.
It includes the line: “The famine’s over, why don’t you go home.”
Rangers also sought guidance from Strathclyde Police on the matter with a view to making singing the song an arrestable offence, although the Rangers Supporters Trust defended the chant, saying it was not racist, and no worse than any other football song.
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Reid has now sought to clarify Celtic’s position on the matter, saying he had “no hesitation” in condemning the song as “racist and deeply offensive”.
He said: “As both Rangers Football Club and Strathclyde Police have stated, the content of the song – which is directed against the community of Irish descent in Scotland – is in breach of Race Relations legislation and exposes its perpetrators to the risk of prosecution.
“The Irish Famine was a human tragedy of immense proportions. It is one of the few such events for which the British government has expressed specific regret for its share of responsibility.
“Few of those who sing this song will have stopped to think that famine is non-sectarian and the millions of people who died or were forced into mass emigration – some of them to Scotland – were from all faiths and traditions within Ireland.
“We should condemn racism and sectarianism without fear or favour wherever they arise. That is an essential part of Celtic Football Club’s ethos.”
Reid added: “In condemning the actions of others, Celtic must always be vigilant with regard to our own conduct and reputation.
“Celtic supporters have received well-earned international plaudits in recent years for the way in which they conduct themselves at home and abroad.
“But we are not complacent. I would again condemn, without equivocation, the use of any chants or songs which can be interpreted as support for religious or ethnic hatred, or for acts of violence.
“The assistance of true Celtic supporters in weeding out the minority who persist in that behaviour, usually at away games, is greatly appreciated and results in stringent action.
“Our supporters can rest assured that Celtic will continue to work with all interested parties to remove the twin cancers of racism and sectarianism from Scottish football and our wider society.”
The aftermath of the August 31 derby saw Irish diplomats raise concerns with the Scottish government over Rangers fans’ chanting.
It is understood a Celtic supporter complained to the Irish Embassy in London, with the matter referred to the Irish Consul in Edinburgh.
That was followed by the Northern Ireland sports minister saying he was unlikely to accept an invitation to Parkhead after pro-IRA chanting by Celtic fans.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell wrote Reid to complain about songs sung by Hoops fans during their September 13 game at Motherwell.
In his letter, which he penned in his capacity as MP and not sports minister, he demanded the club take more action.