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Neil Lennon on bomb court case: I am glad that it is over

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Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, were found guilty of conspiracy to assault after they constructed parcel bombs which were addressed to Lennon, the late QC Paul McBride and former MSP Trish Godman.

McKenzie was also found guilty of dispatching ‘an item’ to the Celtic manager with ‘the intention of inducing him to believe it would explode or ignite’.

However, the jury returned a not proven verdict on that same allegation against Muirhead.

The duo had previously faced charges of conspiracy to murder, however the Procurator Fiscal dropped those charges to conspiracy to assault earlier this week.

Judge Lord Turnbull deferred sentencing the pair until April 27th and told them they had been convicted of ‘unusual but serious offences’.

Following the verdict this afternoon, Celtic manager Neil Lennon said: “This has been a very stressful and difficult time for myself and my family and clearly I am glad that it is over.

“I would like to thank Strathclyde Police for their professionalism throughout, in bringing these individuals to trial, and for the support they have given myself and my family during this very difficult period. I will forever be thankful to the Police for the way in which they have handled this matter.

“I am sure I also speak for Trish and Paul´s family when I say I am glad this period is over. This has been an ordeal which no-one should have to endure.

“Finally, I would like to mention my good friend Paul McBride. His sad passing remains very raw to those close to him, we continue to miss him dearly and my thoughts remain very much with Paul´s family.

“I am sure Paul´s family and partner Gary will receive some comfort to know that those who tried to intimidate him in this way have been dealt with.

“Like Trish and myself, Paul was someone who did nothing to deserve such a cowardly attack on his freedom. I am just sorry that he is not here today to see this matter brought to an end.”

The Northern Irishman, who has been on the sharp end of a concentrated hate campaign since he made the move to Celtic over ten years ago, added: “There is no question this has been a challenging episode in my life and one which has made my role as Celtic Manager difficult.

“However, the position of Celtic Manager is one which I am very proud and privileged to hold and I am now looking forward to putting this matter behind me and getting on with this important job.”

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell stated: “We are pleased that this matter is now over and we thank Strathclyde Police for their assistance in dealing with this case. Neil has done exceptionally well in dealing with this difficult period.

“No one could imagine the pressures that this man has been under during the past two years. He has coped with this particular episode, last year´s assault and the, at times, seemingly unrelenting attacks from many quarters.

“In my opinion, no-one in Scottish footballing history has had to contend with this level of pressure whilst trying to do their job. Neil Lennon is someone who has shown tremendous strength of character and resilience, and we will continue to support Neil in any way we can.”

While Neil Lennon was happy that the case was all over with, except for the sentencing; the republican group Cairde na hEireann, who were also targeted, were less than impressed with the way the case was handled by the Procurator Fiscal and Strathclyde Police.

In statement published soon after the announcement of the verdict, Cairde na hEireann said: “Cairde na hÉireann would like to take this opportunity following the guilty verdicts, on reduced charges, at the trial of Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie to express our disappointment at the way the case has been handled by the Procurator Fiscal and the police.

“We, as victims, expected to be treated as equal to the other victims of this bomb plot. Cairde have been clear from day one that this loyalist conspiracy was driven by anti-Irish racism. We made this clear to the Procurator Fiscal and the police from the outset and are angry that the hate crime element of this case has been ignored throughout. The evidence led against one of the accused clearly showed his links to pro-British death squads.

“We believe this has been done for political purposes. It may suit the state to portray this case as about football or two extremists when in fact this bomb plot shines a light on Scotland’s shame – Anti Irish Racism.”

The group also called into question the handling of the case by Strathclyde Police, the statement added: “Firstly, despite Cairde’s high profile they failed to provide warning to Cairde na hÉireann when they had warned other Irish community groups. Why not? And who made this decision?

“Secondly, whilst taking statements from Cairde na hÉireann members officers were abrupt and aggressive to the point that the members felt it was more of an interrogation and left feeling more like the perpetrators than victims. They were denied the basic right to have a witness present. Again we ask who made this decision?

“Thirdly, the Crown Prosecution Service, the media and Strathclyde police tried to centre this crime around football. Anti-Irish Racism and sectarianism is rife in Scottish society and is not limited to ninety minutes. Racism and other forms of hate crimes are problems for all of Scottish society not just football.”

They continued their attack on the police, the way the case was handled and the outcome: “Cairde have long argued that the police in Scotland are not fit for purpose. What training they have in this area is inadequate. What is needed is transparency and accountability in policing. Following the decision to grant anonymity to police officers during this trial that demand must be repeated.

“Sadly Cairde and the broader Irish community will not be surprised by either the mishandling of this case or the less than satisfactory outcome. We have, over the past eight years, consistently worked with councils, police and parliament on achieving better conditions for the Irish diaspora, especially around the issues of racism and sectarianism. Threats, real or otherwise, will not stop us from striving to accomplish our aims.”

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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