Celtic have hit out at comments made by Northern Irish politician Gregory Campbell labelling them ‘irresponsible’ after he compared Celtic supporters, arriving in Gibraltar for a Champions League match, to that of three IRA terrorists who were later gunned down by the SAS in 1988.
East Derry MP Gregory Campbell, posting on his facebook page, said: “Someone told me that Celtic are due to play on the 12th, in Gibraltar.
“That info was ok but wasn’t sure what he meant when he hoped that it wouldn’t be like the last time Irish Republican sympathisers went to Gibraltar and lost.”
Following his comments, Celtic issued a statement hitting out at Campbell – a founding member of the Westminster Rangers Supporters Club – labelling his comments “highly inappropriate and irresponsible and not worthy of any further comment”.
Since issuing those disgraceful comments, Campbell has refused to remove his comments. Speaking on Stephen Nolan’s BBC radio show, the loyalist politician defended his comments, he said: “Someone told me Celtic were playing on the Twelfth of July, which I thought was ironic. When they told me they were playing in Gibraltar, I thought that was even more ironic.
“The fact is an IRA gang went out to Gibraltar to kill members of the British Army and when they were shot dead by the SAS, their devices, ammunitions and explosives were recovered. This was 28 years ago and you’d wonder why some would want to make an issue of it now then wouldn’t you.
“Those people died as a result of being sent out there and now because it’s 28-years later there is a reference made by me about this football match being played where it took place and some that support the football club that are going would revel in Irish republican activity.”
Campbell has courted controversy over the years fuelling sectarian hatred with his rhetoric, belittling the Irish Gaelic language and claiming that he would take up arms with the ‘Protestant’ people if the British ever withdrew from Northern Ireland.
He has used his position at Westminster over the years to highlight Rangers issues – specifically to praise the Ibrox club and to target Celtic, including helping to lead the charge on allegations against Celtic over state aid which were dismissed by the European Commission and latterly Audit Scotland.
In 21st century Britain, it is disgraceful to see a politician fuelling sectarian hatred over a football match at a time of the year when tensions are high in Northern Ireland. And with Scottish football trying to rid itself of the sectarianism stain, people like Campbell and those who lap up his every word keep bigotry alive in our game when the majority of us just want to watch the football.
Celtic take on Lincoln Red Imps in the first leg of the Champions League qualifying round in Gibraltar on Tuesday, before the return leg in Glasgow next week.
Campbell was unavailable for comment.