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Phil Mac Giolla Bhain – “Tarred with a Sickening Sectarian Brush”


I was as amazed as anyone when I was made aware of an article in yesterday’s Sun newspaper, by Simon Houston, regarding Phil Mac Giolla Bhain. The article itself was almost entirely comprised of fantastical allegations with no apparent basis in fact, but even more concerning was the news that the Sun was to serialise a book by Mac Giolla Bhain about Rangers.

Phil Mac Giolla Bhain is well known to many as a fanatic who has regularly engaged in hate speech about Rangers fans. If you are not aware of this work you can read about some of it here

This is just the tip of the iceberg and how the Sun could be unaware of the bigotry and bile which pours forth from this man on a regular basis is beyond comprehension. I applaud the many bears both individually (and collectively as part of fans groups) who contacted the Sun to show their displeasure. The club and Charles Green should also take enormous credit for ensuring these concerns were treated very seriously. It should not however have taken the very real threat of a boycott for the Sun to do proper due diligence before engaging this man.

Simon Houston, who wrote the offending article and who was presumably involved in the decision to serialise the book, has many questions to answer. It is clear from his Twitter account, which is now closed, that he is a Celtic fan. This does not necessarily mean he agrees with Mac Giolla Bhain’s vile rhetoric - as many Celtic fans do not - but it does mean he is much more likely to be aware of his previous work. He was also prepared to write an extraordinary piece in which he allowed Mac Giolla Bhain to claim he had been subjected to threats - the heavy inference in both the headline and the article being that these had come from Rangers fans. Only at the very bottom of the piece do we arrive at the truth that there is no evidence of these threats having existed. This work of fiction has now been removed from the Sun website.

The Sun statement today in which they acknowledge that Mac Giolla Bhain is “tarred with a sickening sectarian brush” is accurate and welcome. It also leaves many unanswered questions. Will Simon Houston be reprimanded? Has Mac Giolla Bhain benefitted financially despite the decision to stop the serialisation? There is something ironic about the self-styled “Rebel journalist” taking the coin of Rupert Murdoch and being so desperate to be acknowledged by the “mainstream media” he professes to have such contempt for. Seems Phil is ready to set aside his principles for a pay day. Still, I think we can be clear that he won’t be appearing in the ‘mainstream media’ again – his reputation, such as it is, now lying in tatters.

The Sun has acknowledged they made a grave mistake. Sadly Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News refuses to do the same. Thomson has been given an out by the Sun. He is mentioned in their statement as also having mistakenly endorsed Mac Giolla Bhain but remains associated through writing the foreword for this book.

The Sun had this to say, “We believed Phil Mac Giolla Bhain to be a proper and sound journalist. Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson obviously agreed and wrote the foreword in the book. He was wrong and so were we.” Well Thomson doesn’t think he was wrong. It may be arrogance or stupidity but Thomson wishes to stand shoulder to shoulder with this man.

Watching Thomson on Twitter over the past 24 hours has been painful. He is desperately trying to justify his involvement as an endorsement for the book and not the author. He is also peddling the line that people complaining are publicising the book. This ridiculous notion ignores the fact that the more people know about the extremist views of Mac Giolla Bhain, the less likely they are to mistakenly purchase it thinking that it is a Rangers book. I can assure Alex Thomson that those complaining and those they know will not be buying this book.

So, does Alex Thomson condone hate speech? Why is he endorsing the book of a man who writes this type of bile? Do ITN feel it is appropriate that Mr Thomson supports the work of a man that the Sun has now distanced themselves from because of his extremist views? Thomson can repeat his mantra of “how can you comment on a book you haven’t read” as much as he likes. The point is he IS endorsing the author despite being aware of his past. This has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with Thomson lending what little credibility he has left to a man who has none.

It may also be of interest to Thomson that Mac Giolla Bhain is accused of being the co-founder of the ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ fanzine, named after the IRA’s ‘Our Day Will Come’ slogan. TAL is a publication which lionises the Provisionals and their campaign of sectarian murder and terror. In the August 2011 (Edition 3.1) of TAL's E-zine, in a piece called 'Rebel No More', 'Talman', the nom de plume of co-founder and Editor Steven Lees, has a serious pop at his former comrade Mac Giolla Bhain. He says “this from the person who was one of the two co-founders of the TAL Fanzine (I was the other) and who was responsible for writing many articles in support of republican militarism.” 

Alex Thomson is endorsing a man who not only peddles constant hatred against Rangers fans but who also allegedly endorses “republican militarism” to the extent he co-founded a fanzine about it. 

Mac Giolla Bhain’s online chums are, purely by coincidence no doubt, peddling a line incredibly similar to Thomson. They are trying to pursue the idea that those who complained have fallen into their cunning trap of giving the book publicity and that this somehow equates to being a more effective form of spreading the word. The notion that a serialisation in the Sun equates to less publicity than being “tarred with a sickening sectarian brush” is novel but obviously inaccurate. Unless of course the target audience for the book are those tarred with the same brush? People who, like Mac Giolla Bhain, have an all-consuming hatred of everything to do with Rangers?

Paul Brennan of CQN takes the lie one step further by stating that the Sun approached Mac Giolla Bhain and not the other way around. It is touching that these friends and regular stage companions at talks, in Celtic clubs, about Rangers, are sticking up for each other. It is also desperate nonsense. The book was due to be serialised, starting today. The interview appeared yesterday. Imagine if Rangers fans had not mobilised so quickly and the book had actually been serialised – what a disaster that would have been for the cunning PR plan of the East End’s very own Baldricks.

The NUJ also have questions to answer about why they allow this militant to sit on their Irish Executive Council and allow him to hold the position of Editor of their own newsletter “The Irish Journalist”.  They have been made aware of his poisonous ramblings. Do they condone them? Do they have sympathy with “republican militarism” too? The Rangers Standard will return to these questions in the future.

The desperate back peddling from Mac Giolla Bhain and his useful idiots will continue but yesterday was a victory for Rangers fans. The days of accepting a role as a punch bag for extremists like Mac Giolla Bhain are gone. He is now utterly discredited and completely toxic to any serious media outlet. As a club and a fan base we should be prepared to accept measured criticism from all quarters when it is deserved, but we won’t allow ourselves to be targeted by people like this. This decision shows what can be achieved when we present a united front. Long may it continue.