Friday 20 September 2019

Anti-Irish racism in Scotland has to stop - Lennon

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon barks orders from the touchline Photo: Alan Rennie/Getty Images
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon barks orders from the touchline Photo: Alan Rennie/Getty Images

Gavin McCafferty

Neil Lennon insists Scotland has a major problem with anti-Irish racism as he rebuffed claims he incited the latest attack against him.

The Hibernian head coach backed his agent, Martin Reilly, who claimed Lennon was routinely targeted for abuse because he was an Irish Catholic who played for Celtic.

Lennon was among several participants who were assaulted during Wednesday's Edinburgh derby and was angered by claims - including from former team-mate Gary Caldwell - that he had partly brought it on himself by signalling to Hearts fans to calm down following a disallowed goal.

The former Northern Ireland international has previously been attacked at Tynecastle and suffered a number of other crimes in Scotland, including being knocked unconscious in the street and being the recipient of a parcel bomb.

The message 'hang Neil Lennon' was daubed on a wall near Tynecastle on Wednesday and Lennon agreed with Reilly's assessment on the cause of most of the abuse.

"That's the basis of it, has been since 2000," said Lennon at a pre-match media conference ahead of the visit of St Johnstone.

"You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism. If a black man is abused, you are not just abusing the colour of his skin, you are abusing his culture, his heritage, his background.

"It's the exact same when I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier. These people with the sense of entitlement or superiority complex. And all I do is stand up for myself.

"I've been subjected to this for 18 years. I'm 47, I'm fed up of it. I'm the manager of Hibs now and I'm still getting it. Hanging people is something the Ku Klux Klan did in the '60s to black people, so maybe that's the mentality of the people who write this stuff.

"There's a problem. It's a big problem. And you all turn your back on it, you all laugh about it, and brush it aside. It's right there. I keep hearing all this 'One Scotland', we are open to everyone. At times it hasn't been the case to me.

"I had a career in England unblemished by all this stuff. I had two years at Bolton - no abuse, no attacks, no suspensions. As soon as you come back to Scotland, it rears its ugly head.

"It's there right in front of you every week, you hear the songs in stadiums. That's got to be stamped out but people don't want to do it. They say 'there's 40,000 people in there, there's 60,000 in that stadium, you can't do anything about it'. You can, if you really want to.

"And I'm not the only one to suffer from sectarian abuse. There are plenty of Rangers players who suffer it and I think it's disgusting in this day and age. Sometimes its worse here than it is back home."

Lennon spoke to Partick Thistle officials after their manager Caldwell made comments but did not take a phone call from his former colleague.

He added: "It's pretty poor all this - 'I was goading people', 'I bring it on myself'. There's an effigy (graffiti) outside Tynecastle saying 'hang Neil Lennon'. That was before the game. Did I bring that on myself?

"Did the linesman bring it on himself? Did Bobby Zlamal bring it on himself? Did Marvin Bartley bring it on himself? Why do I bring it on myself then when people attack me or throw things at me? This is the mentality that needs to change. It's embarrassing. It makes me very angry."

Irish Independent

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