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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Campaigners urge football associations to take ‘robust approach’ to anti-Irish abuse

Campaigners have urged the English and Scottish football associations to tackle anti-Irish racism after James McClean and Neil Lennon were targeted by supporters.

Both McClean and Lennon have recently claimed they are being targeted and treated differently because they are Irish Catholics.

Stoke City midfielder McClean received a warning from the English Football Association on Monday for language used in an angry Instagram response to fans who abused him for not wearing a Remembrance Day poppy after his club’s Sky Bet Championship draw with Middlesbrough last Saturday.

The incident came just days after Hibernian manager Lennon was hit by a coin during the Edinburgh derby.

Now the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland and Show Racism the Red Card in both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have urged the game’s governing bodies to get tough with offenders.

A joint statement said: ‘This statement is a joint call from Show Racism the Red Card Ireland, Show Racism the Red Card UK and the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland to both the Football Association in England and the Scottish Football Association to have a more robust approach to abuse faced by players like James McClean and managers such as Neil Lennon.

‘Racism on the basis of colour, nationality, religion or ethnicity is not acceptable and all within the game have a responsibility to respond appropriately.

‘James McClean has stood in solidarity with team-mates who have experienced racism and spoken out. We stand in solidarity with James McClean, Neil Lennon and all those who experience racism.

‘We call on both the Football Association in England and the Scottish Football Association to investigate all incidents of anti-Irish discrimination.

‘We also call on both associations to invest funding in anti-racism education to help both supporters and young people understand the dangers and the impact of racism.’

McClean branded spectators who confronted him last Saturday as ‘uneducated cavemen’ in the latest incident surrounding his decision not to wear a poppy on his shirt, and was unhappy to learn the FA was investigating his comments.

He said: ‘The FA are investigating me after Saturday’s event – for what, exactly?

‘Yet week in, week out for the past seven years, I get constant sectarian abuse, death threats, objects being thrown, chanting which is heard loud and clear every week which my family, wife and kids have to listen to, they turn a blind eye and not a single word or condemnation of any sort.’

The Republic of Ireland international was raised on the Creggan Estate in Derry, the home of six of those killed on Bloody Sunday.

Lurgan-born Lennon, like McLean a Catholic, has found himself the subject of abuse repeatedly and called time on his playing career with Northern Ireland after receiving death threats.

In announcing its decision to warn McClean over a single word used in his Instagram post, but to take no further action, the FA added ‘that any discriminatory language or behaviour aimed at any person or persons of nationality or faith, as we understand may have been experienced by the player in this case, is unacceptable’.

Indeed, Rotherham’s Kirk Broadfoot was handed a 10-match ban and a £7,500 fine for using abusive language towards the then Wigan midfielder in 2015.

This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 10th November

Cardiff City v Brighton & Hove Albion – 12:30pm
Huddersfield Town v West Ham United – 3:00pm
Leicester City v Burnley – 3:00pm
Newcastle United v AFC Bournemouth – 3:00pm
Southampton v Watford – 3:00pm
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur – 5:30pm

Sunday 11th November

Liverpool v Fulham – 12:00noon
Chelsea v Everton – 2:15pm
Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 4:30pm
Manchester Derby – Manchester City v Manchester United – 4:30pm

Picture: Republic of Ireland’s James McClean appears frustrated during the UEFA Nations League, League B, Group four match at The Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Tuesday 16th October 2018. (Niall Carson/PA).