Opinion: Celtic's famine memorial shirt a good gesture, but not without hypocrisy

Opinion: Celtic's famine memorial shirt a good gesture, but not without hypocrisy

TODAY Celtic continued with a tradition they began not long ago – remembering the people of the Great Famine in Ireland.

Over the last few years the club have honoured the victims with the National Famine Memorial Day logo placed in the centre of the jersey once a season.

The Bhoys took on Hearts today and the gesture on the jerseys has been warmly welcomed by the Celtic support, who know all too well about just how important it is to remember those who died.

Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell released a statement reminding us how the club are connected to the Great Famine:

The origins of Celtic Football Club are inextricably linked to the Great Famine and it is right that we once again join in this commemoration. Celtic was formed by immigrants and to help people in real need, many whose families had escaped the devastation of the Great Famine. We should never forget the devastating impact this event had on the lives of so many millions of people and we are pleased again to play our part in this year’s memorial.
Peter Lawwell

Most of us know the story behind the formation of Celtic Football Club and such gestures do unite the fans and the general public, although valid questions can be raised about the board's hypocrisy in all this.

No one can question Celtic’s connection with Irish culture and traditions, which have been there from day one and have been prolonged by the fans through song and political viewpoints.

Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell [Picture: Getty] Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell [Picture: Getty]
But Lawwell got himself in hot water with the fans back in March when he was asked about the club's association with Irish republicanism and how fans had feared they may face criminal charges over their views. His response brought disgust from fans:

I do not accept that Irish republicanism is anywhere in Celtic history. I do not recognise Celtic being associated with sectarianism. I do not recognise Celtic being associated with Irish republicanism. This is a club since 1888 has welcomed everyone and has been diverse and open to all.
Peter Lawwell

Supporters were quick to post their comments to the club's official Twitter account. Lawwell clearly didn’t anticipate the storm that was heading his way.

Many pointed out the first sod of turf at Celtic Park was laid by Michael Davitt, who was a celebrated Irish republican, in 1892. That’s not a myth to appeal to the masses; it’s a fact. So either Lawwell just had a really bad day or he just simply hasn’t a clue about the club's history.

It wasn’t long before the club released an official statement which they believed would defuse the situation:

Peter Lawwell is well aware and proud of Celtic’s history and the club’s Irish roots. To clarify any misunderstanding, Peter’s comments related to the longstanding position of the club. People who promote proscribed terrorist organisations are not welcome at Celtic.
Celtic FC

This did little to cool the situation. The word “terrorist” began to trend online throughout Ireland and Scotland and it was clear the matter wasn’t going to be cleared up overnight.

People fall into supporting football clubs for many different reasons. Perhaps they are winning trophies at the time, while the influence of a family member or even the style of football played can make people commit to a club. For me, I was born into supporting Celtic having been raised in a home where my house address began with 'Celtic Park', but every supporter has their reason.

Lawwell believes there is no place at Celtic for Irish republicanism and I have heard plenty of fans agree with him on this, highlighting that politics and sport do not mix. Political allegiance isn't just a tradition at Celtic though, take Barcelona for instance.

Barcelona fans with their 'estelades' (Catalan pro-independence flags) [Picture: Getty] Barcelona fans with their 'estelades' (Catalan pro-independence flags) [Picture: Getty]
FC Barcelona are based in central Catalonia and they have never hidden away from their history, nor should they. Barcelona has adopted 'Mes Que un Club' (More than a club) as their official club motto which epitomises Catalan nationalism. The European champions act as the quintessential tool for political expression of their Catalan identity.

So why is there a problem with Celtic expressing their Irish heritage? Politics is everywhere you look, even Argentina’s international team. Last year their national football team unfurled a banner before their friendly with Slovenia which stated: 'Las Malvinas son Argentinas', which translates as 'the Falkland Islands are Argentinian', before kick-off.

There are many, many more clubs and nations whose support is based on a much deeper element than simply the football itself.

Over the years I have voiced my opinion on the board's stance with Irish identity and I maintain they are only happy to embrace it when there is profit to be made, be that financial or in the form of good PR.

To be clear, I fully support the club's tradition when it comes to the National Famine Memorial Day logo on the shirt, I can't fault them for that. However, you cannot pick and choose your history as you see fit. Lawwell is all too often guilty of doing as such, and for that I brand him hypocritical.