Neil Lennon: there is a big problem with anti-Irish racism in Scotland
Neil Lennon has said Scotland has a major problem with anti-Irish racism as he rebuffed claims that he incited the latest attack against him. The Hibernian head coach backed his agent, Martin Reilly, who claimed Lennon was routinely targeted for abuse because he was an Irish Catholic who had played for Celtic.
Lennon was among several participants assaulted during Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby and was angered by claims – including one from his former teammate Gary Caldwell – that he had partly brought it on himself by signalling to Hearts fans to calm down following a disallowed goal. The former Northern Ireland international has previously been attacked at Tynecastle and suffered a number of other incidents in Scotland, including being knocked unconscious in the street and being the recipient of a parcel bomb. The message “hang Neil Lennon” was daubed on a wall near Tynecastle on Thursday.
“You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism,” he said. “If a black man is abused, you are not just abusing the colour of his skin, you are abusing his culture, his heritage, his background. It’s the exact same when I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier. These people with the sense of entitlement or superiority complex. And all I do is stand up for myself.
“I’ve been subjected to this for 18 years. I’m 47, I’m fed up of it. I’m the manager of Hibs now and I’m still getting it. Hanging people is something the Ku Klux Klan did in the 60s to black people, so maybe that’s the mentality of the people who write this stuff. There’s a problem. It’s a big problem.”
Lennon spoke to Partick officials after Caldwell, their manager, made comments but did not take a phone call from his former colleague. He added: “It’s pretty poor all this – I was goading people, I bring it on myself. There’s an effigy [graffiti] outside Tynecastle saying ‘hang Neil Lennon’. That was before the game. Did I bring that on myself?”