One of Scotland’s leading commentators, Gerry Hassan, has made a swingeing attack on the press office of the Scottish Catholic Church following the abrupt departure of Hugh Dallas as the Scottish Football Association’s head of referee development.
Writing in The Scotsman yesterday, Hassan pointed out: “Elements of Celtic FC believe that it is still seen by some as an interloper – a non-Scottish institution, and an immigrant club to this day.
“Shocking, incendiary-like remarks by the Catholic church spokesman, Peter Kearney, have added to this.
“Talking about an investigation into an alleged offensive email by Hugh Dallas, SFA head of referee development, Kearney spoke of this being ‘deeply offensive to the Catholic community of Scotland, and an incitement to anti-Catholic sectarianism’. Dallas is the person many see as Celtic’s ultimate target.”
Hassan goes on: “The Catholic Church has form here in hyperbole. There is an inverse relationship between the secularisation of society, decline in practising Catholics and numbers at mass, and the rise of an aggressive, confrontational language by the Catholic Church media office.”
Kearney, meanwhile, in today's Sunday Times Scotland, writes: ”Catholics in Scotland have drawn a line in the sand. The bigotry, bile, sectarian undercurrent and innuendos must end.
“Such hateful attitudes poison the well of community life. They must be excised once and for all.”
A different angle on the whole saga is taken by highly-respected Scottish sports journalist, Glenn Gibbons, also writing in The Scotsman yesterday.
Says Gibbons: “If journalists, politicians, lawyers and estate agents were to take strike action over the public impugning of their honesty, integrity and competence, a few of the nation's serious professions would collapse and anarchy would prevail, the consequence of a lack of direction from an absentee government.
“The traditional (and institutional) defaming of these groups and others has intensified conspicuously since the onset of the age of instant communication, driven by technological advances that have allowed any semi-literate cretin with a keyboard at his fingertips the opportunity to make pronouncements that, in many cases, betray a dumbness that is staggering.
“None of these bodies, not even the politicians, is as regularly reviled as football writers and broadcasters. The vituperation is directed at them daily on the grounds of suspected allegations to a particular club and/or a powerful bias against another.
“In its initial stages, this sudden arrival of vicious, often actionable commentaries on reporters’ motives caused a certain shock and, doubtless, widespread discomfort.
“But the ensuing mushrooming of website forums, radio phone-ins and newspaper hotlines has revealed such a generally Neanderthal level of intelligence that the vast majority of its intended targets nowadays literally ignore the rants.”