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Anthony Stokes, Celtic and the Real IRA Party

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[media-credit name=”Pic: Scotzine” align=”aligncenter” width=”580″][/media-credit]A Celtic player attends their friend’s party in Ireland. Nothing wrong in that you say, but when that friend just happened to be Alan Ryan – the leader of the Dublin brigade of the Real IRA who had been gunned down in the street – then it becomes a whole different ball game.

Celtic and their supporters have always been judged as a club that supported Irish republicanism and with that the terrorist groups – the IRA, PIRA and other splinter groups that have popped up. This statement is what is being peddled by opposition fans and those who like to make general sweeping statements.

Just like those who claim that Rangers and their fans are supporters of Loyalism and their equivalent terror groups. Again this is a general sweeping statement.

Both are wrong in every sense of the word. Neither club support their alleged sides in the political divide, they are football clubs not political parties and they are Scottish clubs not Irish.

Celtic have been trying to curb the undercurrent of Irish republicanism, specifically the singing of IRA songs and chants at games whether at home or away. But the news that striker Anthony Stokes attended a party in honour of a REAL IRA commander has dented Celtic’s hard work in ridding the support of the IRA luvvies that have resurfaced in a new generation of fan.

Certain journalists have already targeted Stokes for bringing shame on Celtic Football Club, a comment attributed to a piece written by The Scotsman’s Tom English. No matter the reason behind Stokes attending said party, it has damaged Celtic to a certain extent.

Stokes and Alan Ryan were friends – there is no denying that – but it doesn’t mean that Stokes agreed with what Ryan stood for or supported him in what he did as a member of the REAL IRA. However, Stokes should have really considered his options and consulted with club officials and even his agent before attending.

He will now be classed as the poster bhoy for the IRA luvvies that infest a section of the Celtic support, whether he likes it or not.

To date Celtic have not issued a public statement on the matter, again whether this is right or wrong, they are said to be dealing with it in-house. Whether that involves a fine, reading of the riot act, a slap on the wrist or worse, we just do not know. But in my opinion, Stokes should be hauled over the coals and forced to realise the shame he has brought upon Celtic Football Club with his associations.

In fact the whole Stokes clan seem to be on a one-family mission to cause continued negative publicity for the club.

If he had worn a t-shirt with Ryan’s name on it or a black armband while playing in a game for Celtic, it could have been much worse for the player if the club or authorities found out. However he could have got round that by claiming it was in remembrance of his granny.

Was it right Stokes attended the party? No. He was there to celebrate the life and to pay respects to his friend Ryan who had been gunned down in the street back in September. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. Stokes was not donating his Celtic wage to the REAL IRA cause, despite certain elements claiming so. But Stokes showed a distinct lack of common sense in attending said party.

For Stokes, he will now be tarred with three brushes – by opposition fans as a supporter of the REAL IRA or at least a terrorist sympathiser. By elements of the Celtic support as an Irish republican patriot and will be forever welcomed among the IRA luvvies and by others who see him as someone who was stupid enough to put himself in that position in the first place.

He can’t choose who is family is, what they do and who they associate with. You can’t disown them either although some have tried. In terms of Stokes himself, he chooses who his friends are, he cannot pick and choose what they do. But he associates with them and when he finds out what they do or did then he has to make a decision whether to be in their company or not.

Stokes need to think of the bigger picture, at a time when Scottish football is still shamed with sectarianism and bigotry across the country – rather than just the perceived notion that it’s a west of Scotland issue – the Celtic striker must learn that he represents the club whether he wears the green and white jersey or not.

As for Messrs Lawwell and Lennon they need to read the injured striker the riot act. Could it lead to Stokes’ departure from the club? I honestly don’t know, but as a Celtic fan I ask other Celtic fans – do you want players representing Celtic Football Club that associate themselves with members of a terrorist group?

I don’t. In my opinion he has shamed the jersey that he represents and should never grace it again.

UPDATE:

Since the publication of the above article, it has been reported that Celtic took action against the player. According to The Scotsman newspaper.

Manager Neil Lennon stated: “We spoke to him (Stokes) internally. I am not going to moralise to him, but you cannot damage the reputation of the club. He is aware of that now. It has been dealt with internally.

Asked if Stokes had damaged the reputation of Celtic, Lennon replied: “Yeah.”

Asked further if the incident could spell the end of his time at Celtic, Lennon added: “It is maybe (make or break) in terms of football. He has been out for the best part of six months. So he wants to get back playing and we want him to get back playing, because over the last two seasons he has been a very important player for us in terms of goals.”

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About Author

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and Women's Football Weekly. He produces the Scottish Football show The Final Whistle for Pulse 98.4FM and is the ESPN blogger for Celtic FC. He works on a freelance basis and has contributed to the Daily Record, The Scotsman, the Daily Mail and also blogs at Huffington Post UK.

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