News Irish News

Thursday 14 November 2019

Bullet posted to Celtic manager

New threat comes a day after Hearts fan attacks Lennon

Richard Hall

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was the target of another death threat yesterday when a package addressed to him containing a bullet was sent to his football club's grounds.

Strathclyde police said they were investigating a suspicious package discovered at Parkhead, while the club's chief executive Peter Lawwell confirmed a package which contained "ammunition" had been received.

The incident came the day after Lennon (39) was attacked by a Hearts fan during a Scottish Premier League game on Wednesday evening. The manager, who has had to live with round-the-clock security after past death threats, was said to be "shaken" after the incident.

The man ran at Lennon after leaping over the barrier from the Hearts' section of the crowd. He was restrained by security staff after swinging a punch and missing.

John Wilson (26), from Edinburgh, was charged with breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice and assault aggravated by religious prejudice at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday.

Lennon and his fiancee Irene have a son together, five-year-old Gallagher. The couple were reportedly on the receiving end of sectarian abuse while on a night out earlier this year.

Mr Lawwell said the attack by Wilson "highlights the fact that Scottish society must address fundamental and serious issues which lead to outrages of this kind", adding that a further seven people had been arrested at Celtic's training ground following an alleged firearms incident. Hearts last night banned Mr Wilson for life from the club and said it would give its full co-operation to the authorities during the investigation.

Mr Lennon has been the subject of a number of attacks and threats throughout his career, which have intensified since he took on the managerial role at the club in June 2010.

Two men were being held yesterday in connection with an investigation into parcel bombs sent to Lennon and to two high-profile supporters of the club in March. The men, aged 41 and 43, were detained after officers searched a number of properties in Kilwinning, Ayrshire.

A package of bullets addressed to the manager was also intercepted at a sorting office in Mallusk, Co Antrim, in January. Two months later, Lennon was involved in heated exchanges with Rangers player El-Hadji Diouf and assistant manager Ally McCoist during an ill-tempered Old Firm cup game played on March 2.

On April 19, Royal Mail intercepted two "viable" parcel bombs addressed to Lennon. In September 2008, he was treated in hospital after being attacked in Glasgow's Ashton Lane hours after the opening Old Firm game of the season.

"The basic root of this problem is part of the religious and immigration history of Scotland," said Professor Tom Devine of Edinburgh University.

"In the 19th and early 20th century there was significant numbers of Catholic and Protestant immigration from the north of Ireland. There was a sense of animosity at that group arriving at the time, and almost a sense of Scottish society being overwhelmed.

"Animosity in working-class neighbourhoods between Catholics and Protestants is weaker than it was in the old days but something of the folk memory still fuels low-level bigotry."


Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond called the incident "utterly unacceptable".

"We cannot have the safety of individuals endangered by such mindless incidents, and our national game tarnished," he said.

Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby said that Lennon had been shocked by Wednesday's incident.

"It's a disgrace," he said. "He's had death threats and he's shaken right now.

"Neil's a strong character and he's coped with a lot this season and has still been able to work with this team and improve it."

The man who polarises opinion like no other : See Sport

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News