Politician slams SPL over 'pro-IRA' chanting

Scottish Premier League chairman Lex Gold was today accused of “shying away” from dealing with alleged pro-IRA chanting by sections of the Celtic support.

Northern Ireland Assembly member Jimmy Spratt, a unionist politician, wrote to Gold to express his “disgust” after claiming to have heard sectarian chants from Celtic fans during their Clydesdale Bank Premier League win at Hearts.

The South Belfast DUP MLA was far from satisfied with the response he received, though he did not reveal details of the correspondence.

He said: “I am considerably underwhelmed at how the SPL intend to deal with this specific example of sectarianism in football.

“While I appreciate that the SPL have certain rules designed to address unacceptable conduct, and welcome that being the case, the fact that Mr Gold chooses to shy away from dealing with this specific matter of pro-IRA chanting is regrettable.”

Spratt, who has now raised the matter with First Minister Alex Salmond, believes there should be the same level of outcry about pro-IRA chanting as there has been about Rangers fans taunting Celtic about their Irish heritage.

He said: “In recent weeks, much has been made in the media and by the authorities surrounding the so called ’Famine Song’.

“Surely the media and authorities should be making specific reference to pro-IRA chanting, as in essence it is the glorification of a terrorist organisation who murdered over 1,800 people in the course of a campaign which had sectarianism at its very core.

“By refraining from doing so, certain sections of the media, and authorities, only deepen the suspicion held by many that pro-IRA chanting by Celtic supporters is a taboo subject to which a blind eye is repeatedly turned.

“I condemn any form of sectarian singing, regardless of who it emanates from. What is clear though is that there is a continuing problem with sectarianism among Glasgow Celtic supporters who glorify the IRA through chants and songs.

“Due to the seriousness of the problem, I have pressed Mr Gold to outline specific action he intends to take to highlight this particular problem, and have again raised it with the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

“It is time for real action on this matter and I would urge those in positions of authority to make clear it will not be tolerated.”

The SPL confirmed they were aware of Spratt’s concerns and would respond privately, though they are believed to feel his criticism is wide of the mark.

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