Derry footballer James McClean has complained of a culture of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sectarianism among some football supporters across the water.
The Stoke City and Ireland winger issued the complaint after receiving a torrent of abuse from a minority of football fans following ‘The Potters’’ goalless draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday.
It’s believed the abuse was levelled at Mr. McClean due to his conscientious refusal to don a Remembrance Day poppy in protest at atrocities committed by British armed forces in Ireland, a stance he has maintained since leaving Derry for Sunderland in 2011.
Following the weekend’s incident the Derry footballer branded his abusers ‘uneducated cavemen’ and declared that he was a ‘proud Fenian’ and ‘nothing will change that’.
The Creggan man quoted the iconic IRA hungerstriker Bobby Sands in response to his abusers with his famous remark that “they have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken”.
Yesterday the FA confirmed it was investigating the post. But Mr. McClean, who has been a regular victim of hate crime in football grounds all over Britain since moving overseas, asked: “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 too.
“They turn a blind eye and not a single word or condemnation of any sort.”
Mr. McClean claimed anti-Irish prejudice was not taken as seriously as other forms of bigotry in Britain. He said he believed racist, Islamophobic, sexist or homophobic abuse would be dealt with in a “completely different way”.
“But like the Neil Lennon case in Scotland because we are Irish Catholics they turn a blind eye and nothing is ever said and done,” he said.
Manchester United star Nemanja Matić, meanwhile, has outlined that the slaughter of hundreds of civilians during the British and American led NATO bombing of his native Serbia in 1999 prompted his decision not to wear a poppy.
Last week the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood implored people to exercise tolerance around people’s personal decisions on whether or not to wear a remembrance poppy in the run up to the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War on November 11.
“Surely remembrance is a personal thing. If you want to wear a poppy that’s fine. If you don’t that’s fine too. Can we all stop pretending to be offended by other people’s choices,” he stated.
Four years ago while playing for Wigan Athletic Mr. McClean outlined his reasons for not wearing a poppy.
“For me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles - and Bloody Sunday especially - as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII,” he wrote.