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Catholic Church outraged by sheriff’s call to abolish Scottish denominational schools

THE best way to tackle the problem of sectarianism in Scotland is “do away with” denominational schools rather than enforcing a ban on sectarian songs.

That’s the view of Sheriff Richard Davidson, who made the comment at the trial of a Celtic fan charged with singing a sectarian song at a Boxing Day match with Dundee.

Sheriff Davidson

Sheriff Davidson

Addressing the court yesterday, Davidson denounced attempts to tackle sectarianism in football through laws banning certain songs.

He said this could lead to full courts and empty football grounds.

He added:

Sectarianism is a blight on Scottish society, but this isn’t the way to tackle it. The way to tackle it is to do away with denominational schools.

The comments provoked an immediate backlash from the Catholic Church who described them as “deeply regrettable”.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Dunkeld said:

Catholic schools exist throughout the world without being accused of leading to sectarianism.

Dion McLeish, 20, was found not guilty at Dundee Sheriff Court of inciting public disorder during a Boxing Day match between Dundee and Celtic.

Prosecutors had alleged that, on December 26 at Dens Park, Dundee,McLeish engaged in behaviour which was likely or would be likely to incite public disorder by singing a song contrary to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

It was alleged he was singing Roll of Honour – a song remembering the Irish Republican hunger strikers who dies in the Maze prison in 1981.

Davidson told McLeish:

I have been attending football matches since 1957 and there is nothing I have seen in this particular case that would cause me the slightest concern. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, as far as I’m concerned, that your behaviour would be liable to incite public disorder and you will be found not guilty.

The verdict is another blow to new legislation, which was passed last year by the Scottish Government.

Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, has claimed the laws – which outlaw sectarian songs and abuse at Scottish football matches – have been a success.

However, leading lawyers have raised concerns that football fans in Scotland are having their human rights undermined by the new police powers.

They claim supporters have been put under surveillance orders and quizzed by detectives at airports when returning from holidays, with many cases either dropped or found not proven.

Sheriff Davidson is no stranger to controversy. He once had to apologise for branding the vicious behaviour of an accused towards his ex-girlfriend as “typical of Dundee man” and also said children of drug addicts should be adopted.

16 Responses to “Catholic Church outraged by sheriff’s call to abolish Scottish denominational schools”

  1. Broga says:

    Apart from his welcome comments on the abolition of denominational schools Sheriff Davidson is defending free speech. I suspect that if the religious hierarchy, and much of the government, had their way there would not be many comments left to read on this site. Just because something someone says offends you that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t say it. And that applies to political comments as well as religious. The latter being a regular source of protest.

  2. Canada Dave says:

    Just so I understand the issue thoroughly now.

    A man has been charged with a “crime” for …..singing…do I have that correct?

    Are the courts not full enough with real infractions are they so bereft of actual real crime that they stoop to inventing crimes for ….singing.

    Taken further will those in Scotland soon have to cower in the shadows while …..eating….then breathing ….then …..”thinking”.

    George Orwell’s 1984 was late in coming to Scotland.

  3. Daz says:

    Catholic schools exist throughout the world without being accused of leading to sectarianism.

    And here was me thinking such schools were an example of sectarianism. Silly, me.

    Canada Dave:

    I’d want to know what the lyrics were before commenting on that, given the nature of some football crowd-chants.

  4. Trevor Blake says:

    Perhaps some day the United States will be burdened with a National Health Service and the United Kingdom will be burdened with a First Amendment.

  5. JohnMWhite says:

    @Canada Dave – it’s a bit more complicated than just singing. Many of these songs are aggressive celebrations of murdering the ancestors of those at whom they are targeted, and often with the implication that the singer would like further murder to ensue in modern times. Songs along the lines of Up To Our Knees in Fenian Blood can really put the cat among the pigeons. These people throw one another in front of trains because of the colour of their shirt. I can see why the law is concerned with songs.

    Having said that, I don’t think dragging people into court is an effective use of resources, and it is true it sets a worrying precedent. Would I, somebody who has complete antipathy toward football, be arrested under similar legislation for singing The Pope Song? Football clubs throwing out and banning people who sing these songs makes sense: their house, their rules, and it sends a clear message that sectarian hate and religious wars by proxy is not the objective of Scottish football. The police and the courts seem rather misplaced here, though, and all they’re going to achieve is making bitter, angry zealots even more bitter and angry. Who decides that Roll of Honour is a hateful, sectarian song?

    Catholic schools do breed sectarianism. That’s what they are there for. It’s their purpose for existence. Our school used to have pitched battles in the street with the local non-denominational school, and when asked what they were fighting about, the answer was simply “they’re the other lot”.

  6. JohnMWhite says:

    For Daz: The lyrics to Roll of Honour:

    For Ireland’s bravest men
    We must be united in memory of the ten,
    England you’re a monster, don’t think that you have won
    We will never be defeated while Ireland has such sons.

    In those dreary H-Block cages ten brave young Irishmen lay
    Hungering for justice as their young lives ebbed away,
    For their rights as Irish soldiers and to free their native land
    They stood beside their leader – the gallant Bobby Sands.
    Now they mourn Hughes in Bellaghy,
    Ray McCreesh in Armagh’s hills
    In those narrow streets of Derry they miss O’Hara still,
    They so proudly gave their young lives to break Britannia’s hold
    Their names will be remembered as history unfolds.

    Read the roll of honour for Ireland’s bravest men
    We must be united in memory of the ten,
    England you’re a monster, don’t think that you have won
    We will never be defeated while Ireland has such sons.

    Through the war torn streets of Ulster the black flags did sadly sway
    To salute ten Irish martyrs the bravest of the brave,
    Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty
    They gave their lives for freedom with Thomas McElwee.
    Michael Devine from Derry you were the last to die
    With your nine brave companions with the martyred dead you lie
    Your souls cry out “Remember, our deaths were not in vain.
    Fight on and make our homeland a nation once again!”

    If this is sectarian, I think we’re going to have to arrest everybody at every Scottish national match, since the national anthem is largely about crushing an English army.

  7. Broga says:

    What about the dreary anthem “God Save the Queen.” Isn’t there a verse in there, usually now omitted, about the nasty Scots and defeating their “nefarious schemes”? The history of Ireland with the blood soaked paws of the Black and Tans, the cottagers standing outside as their cottages were burned to the ground and the English landlords, living fat in England while bleeding the Irish by insisting on their undeserved rents, gave plenty of cause for Irish anger. Bobby Sand was a hero. He starved himself to death for Ireland, as he saw it.

    On the other side, are there not plenty of Protestant songs of similar tone? And provocitive Protestent marches.

  8. T says:

    Sheriff Richard Davidson is correct in his assertion. Schools should be for education of children. Schools have been hijacked all over the world by the religious zealots for the sole purpose of ensnaring young minds. It’s essentially a criminal activity because those who know what their god wants indoctrinate divisive prejudices, intolerance and hatred against those who have different or no beliefs. Read a paper, listen to the news on the radio, surf the news websites and you will find the world is riddled with deadly conflicts with their origins in religious bigotry.

  9. Broga says:

    OT: I note that the Daily Telegraph that bastion of religion and all that is good and true in England has abandoned free speech. The vitriol being poured on Thatcher has led to the Torygraph closing off all comments, enmail or otherwise, on the subject of the demise of Thatcher. I assume if the comments had been sycophantic they would have been delighted to have them.

  10. Broga says:

    OT: I note that the Daily Telegraph that bastion of religion and all that is good and true in England has abandoned free speech. The vitriol being poured on Thatcher has led to the Torygraph closing off all comments, email or otherwise, on the subject of the demise of Thatcher. I assume if the comments had been sycophantic they would have been delighted to have them.

  11. JohnMWhite says:

    Fortunately for us, the Internet cannot be silenced, and most people really filter their world through it. While the media may lie and try to bury the response to Thatcher’s death, the real story plays out in real time in front of everyone. The sycophants and the bullies who adored her are simply made to look all the more foolish as they pretend once more that black is white.

    I guarantee that if the song is in the charts at the weekend, it will be simply skipped over and ignored by the likes of Radio One. The cowards wouldn’t dare mention it. The quisling UK media is all too happy to provide a pulpit to homophobes, racists and misogynists, but if the regular people try to voice their disapproval of a mass murderer who wrecked entire communities and put us on track for the financial ruin that has stolen the future from our youth, that is simply not acceptable. Yet we’ll all know the real story anyway.

  12. ZombieHunter says:

    Hats off to this Sheriff for stating the blatantly obvious and the more high up and official figures who speak out against segregated schools based on faith the better.

    many people feel the same here in scotland and when I was volunteering on a trip with a youth group last year the theme was “challenging secterianism” and the conclusion we all came to is that one of the best ways to tackle secterianism is to end what I call “state sponsored secterianism.

    I’m glad that the celtic fan was found not guilty and do think these laws that are supposed to tackle secterianism could be used to stifle opinion and even humour but this doesn’t change the fact that he is a twat and someone should point out to all celtic and rangers fans that football songs are not history lessons.

    I’ve spoken to people from Belfast who have lived through the troubles and the point I made to them is that celtic and rangers fans use the IRA and UVF etc as fashion accsesories and they agreed, according to the militant celtic and rangers fans I’ve spoken to it’s not a fashion accesory and they are for real.

  13. Stephen O'Donnell says:

    Davidson has the right of the Anti Sectarian legislation.

    He is wrong about Catholic schools though. Catholic schools do not propagate or perpetuate sectarianism. Sectarianism is an ideological prejudice within religious groups…most people charged under the current legislation are feckless nihilists who believe in nothing.

  14. 1859 says:

    ‘Catholic schools do not propagate or perpetuate sectarianism’.

    This is far too naive a statement. Of course they don’t do this as an overt policy published in their mission statement. But the facts are that schools set up by a particular religion send out their particular religious messages, be it covertly or overtly. In the very ethos of such a school, the types of teachers it hires, the symbols hung on walls, the daily prayers – they are all insidious propaganda that insidiously produce a sectaraian result – children who think they are better because their religion is different from other kids. It is wrong and rabid sectarianism is the result.