‘Stop behaving like victims’: Anti-Catholic sectarianism a thing of the past in Scotland, claims leading historian
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‘Stop behaving like victims’: Anti-Catholic sectarianism a thing of the past in Scotland, claims leading historian

IRISH Catholics in Scotland have hit back at claims by one of the country’s leading historians that anti-Catholic sectarianism is a thing of the past.

Elements of the community should “stop behaving like victims” according to historian Sir Tom Devine.

However, many have been quick to point out that discrimination in the workplace continues despite Devine’s claim the issue is now semi-irrelevant.

Others suggest that hatred of Catholics continues to be ‘inherent’.

Journalist and author Matt McGlone is a former employee of Celtic FC.

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“Being called a ‘Fenian Bastard’ is a daily occurrence,” he said adding that ‘sectarianism was rife’ in his experience.

“There is no way that sectarianism has changed, there is an inherent hatred for Catholics in the west of Scotland and other parts of the country,” he added.

“I work at the hard end of this and I see a lot of this behaviour socially in the streets, pubs, workplace and Scottish society in general.”

Daniel Harkins, editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer said: “Only last month we reported on 15 employees of a local authority who had complained to their union of anti-Catholic discrimination by their supervisor - a convicted bigot.

Our evidence is anecdotal, not statistical - but it has always been difficult to accurately measure levels of anti-Catholicism in Scotland.”

The claims were made during a controversial and contested lecture Sectarianism is largely a matter for historians and is not an issue in modern Scotland, part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival in Coatbridge.

It featured Sir Tom Devine and Director of the Catholic Media office Peter Kearney.

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Daniel Harkins said: “Sir Tom Devine is right, in that past structural anti-Catholicism in the labour market was certainly a bigger problem than the less widespread form we see today.

“However, I don’t share his view that the issue is ‘semi-irrelevant’ as he said during the debate.”

Speaking after the event Sir Tom said: “The community has cracked the glass ceiling. In 2015 there were six vice-chancellors born Catholic, two holders of the chair of Scottish history have been Catholic and the two last Lord Advocates before the present one.”

Another contentious issue was the nature of hate crimes against Catholics.

Sir Tom said: “Analysis (of sectarian hate crime) suggests the perpetrator doesn't know if their target is Catholic or non-Catholic.

“The overwhelming cases are against police or fire services and it is overwhelmingly in the west of Scotland on a Friday or Saturday night by young men drunk or intoxicated by drugs.

"Calling someone a ‘Fenian Bastard’ is immediately an offence. I said to the audience ‘I couldn't give a damn if someone called me a Fenian Bastard; I would glory at that’.”

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While Devine admitted there are still “remnants” in particular areas of Scotland he added that the community is being provided with a ‘false narrative’.

“My essential point was we should stop behaving like victims and accept the reality of the transformation of our people within Scottish society,” he said.

“History does tell us that it took a hell of a long time and that is a scar on the history of Scotland as a welcoming society.”

Sir Tom Devine will appear at Glasgow’s Aye Write! Festival to discuss his new book Tea and Empire at The Mitchell Library, March 25, 6.30pm.