Saturday, 19 October 2013

You And Whose Army - What Motivated The Rangers To Invite The Armed Forces To Ibrox

The behaviour of some The Rangers fans and some Forces personnel at the recent UK Armed Forces celebration at Ibrox has been ably covered elsewhere. But what, I wonder, was the motivation of the chiefs at Ibrox (who might soon outnumber the Indians) in inviting UK Armed Forces on Armed Forces Day? Was it to celebrate the Forces contribution to society? To some that would be fair enough. Or, was it to celebrate the Ibrox feeling of Britishness and being part of The Union? There’s nothing wrong with a section of society celebrating its sense of identity, if it’s done respectfully.

But in a society that, though perhaps not as broken as N. Ireland, still has fractures there’s something suspect about a section of that society appearing to claim ownership of an army that is supposed to be at the service of everyone.  

Was the motivation to invite the Forces to say to other elements in society, “it’s our army”? Others might say they’re welcome to it. But that’s not the point. If such elements really believe that it’s their army then they’re not interested in notions (some might say pretences) of UK forces neutrality. For instance, should conflict break out in Belfast to the degree that army presence is deemed necessary by UK government, then how would the same armed forces who’d partied to sectarian tunes so enthusiastically at Ibrox be seen? This should concern Forces bosses because, if this claim of ownership is left unchallenged, then it brings the ostensive integrity of UK Armed Forces into disrepute.

There are many within the Armed Forces who do not support Rangers and who are disgusted by incidents such as Armed Forces Day at Ibrox and the previous Remembrance Day debacle. As one former army acquaintance told me recently, “We’re not their bloody army”. This former soldier does in fact support The Rangers yet he has no time for what he called “feeding frenzies”.

I asked another former career soldier, who is a life-long Celtic supporter from Aberdeenshire, what he made of it all. “What on earth were they thinking?” was his resigned reply. He was referring to Army top brass. Of course there’s no doubt that many Scots in the army support Rangers and one suspects if some within that grouping were asked to attend the ceremony at Ibrox they’d jump at the chance. Its conceivable then that stresses which occur in our society as a whole may place a debilitating strain one day within the UK Armed Forces.

Another motivation for The Rangers bosses inviting the nation’s Armed Forces to Ibrox was of course to curry favour with the Ibrox faithful, some of whom revel in militaristic displays like this.  Not for them the questioning of UK Armed Forces activities around the world, from Ireland to Afghanistan, where civilians have felt the full force of often less than neutral soldiering.

With memories of the recent Irish Troubles and UK Armed Forces often controversial activity in them still being fresh, the invitation to celebrate Armed Forces Day at Ibrox Park had a provocative element. Perhaps by appealing to the worst prejudices of the worst subsection of The Rangers support (who couldn't restrain themselves to respectful applause - as many at Ibrox did) is the only way those seeking to become the new regime at The Rangers feel they can impress their “troops”.#

You can call that many things, except progress.

Monday, 14 October 2013

What Is Behind Selective Condemnation of Child Abuse?

Child abuse is an unforgivable crime no matter who commits it. Covering up such a crime is unforgivable regardless of which organisation does so.  In recent years we've learned that the cover up of paedophilia runs through just about every institution entrusted with the care of society, from state-run care homes, political institutions, the Catholic church - and other churches, schools and families.
All this is obvious.
But there are some who'd use the horrific crime of child abuse for some perverted political end or to gain some sick sectarian advantage. There are some who, in the context of Northern Ireland’s and Scotland’s sectarian divisions, are keen to bring the Catholic church to book when it comes to that institution’s record of child abuse and cover up. That record is undeniably shameful.
However, many of these same people are not as keen to explore the instances of child abuse and cover up in state-run institutions. Why not? There is no difference in the gravity of the crime wherever it takes place. So why the selective focus of some? If abhorrence of paedophilia was the sole motivation for their concern, then surely they would devote as much time to shining the spotlight on all institutions? Because, if not, then something other than moral concern is at the root of their “outrage.”
Could it be anti-Catholic sectarianism that motivates some to focus exclusively on the inexcusable abuse of children which took place within the Catholic church?  It seems to some the very fact that the abusers were Catholics is reason enough to focus only on that institution’s dreadful record.
However, in actual fact, the defining feature of systematic institutional child abuse is not the religion of the perpetrators but the power they have over children. That is why the scale of abuse of children within the Catholic church is, sadly, matched at least by the scale of abuse within care home systems, whether religious or secular, around the world.
One such care home of course was the Kincora home in Belfast, run by a Loyalist (William McGrath) who systematically raped boys in his care. The cover-up involved police, secret services and others. Indeed, when one of McGrath’s co-rapists of children at Kincora, Loyalist paramilitary John McKeague, threatened to name others in this paedophile ring (which allegedly included security force figures) he was conveniently killed by the INLA, the men involved themselves suggested to be doing, consciously or unconsciously, someone else’s dirty work.
Some in Northern Ireland and Scotland who are quick to criticise, rightly, the Catholic church’s record on child abuse refuse to turn that same critical eye on institutions whose existence does not offend them as much. Is such abuse less condemnable in their eyes because it wasn't carried out by Catholics? This beggars the question what kind of people would use such a dreadful issue for cheap political or sectarian advantage? Certainly not objective thinkers, liberal people or anyone who actually cared about the crime of child abuse, wherever it takes place, and whoever carries it out.