Tuesday, 15 November 2011

FAC Public Meeting

FAC Public Meeting
Saturday 12 November 2011
Whitehill Secondary School, Dennistoun

Due to pressure of activity around this Bill which is only 5 weeks away from implementation, no official account has yet been given of the meeting.  However, there have been a lot of unhelpful and misleading stories around the internet which need to be corrected.  So here are the facts.

  • The meeting was originally booked in to St Mungo’s Secondary School via the lettings section of Glasgow City Council.
  • The let was changed four days before the meeting because the janitor in St Mungo’s didn’t want to do the overtime
  • We accepted the only other let offered to us at such short notice, which was Whitehill.
  • On the Thursday before the meeting, Mark Dingwall (aka Grandmaster Suck from the Follow Follow website) and David Leggat, a blogger and former journalist spread stories that the meeting was about the IRA.
  • By the Friday this had generated a number of complaints to the school who forwarded them to the City Council (school heads have no say in lets outside of school hours).
  • The City Council did not have a problem with our let but advised the police in case there was any trouble.
  • The meeting was due to begin at 1pm but the main speaker, Michael McMahon MSP, was unavoidable detained in his surgery and did not arrive till 1.30.
  • A large (45-50) contingent of mainly young Rangers casuals arrived at the meeting hall around 12.45.
  • They were told that if they were there to discuss opposition to the Bill then they were welcome
  • There was however a very hostile and threatening atmosphere and many people – especially those with young children and some people with disabilities – left the hall.  Some of those people reported being abused by the Rangers crowd.
  • At around 1.30 the police, who were now there in some numbers, asked to speak to the leaders of the Rangers crowd.
  • One of the organisers went to the hall to ask for them to send someone out to speak to the police and they did that.
  • On the basis of assurances that there would be no trouble, the meeting was started.
  • The Chair, Joe O’Rourke from the CSA and FAC outlined how the meeting would proceed:  Kevin Rooney from the Take a Liberty campaign was to speak first; the main speaker Michael McMahon was to speak next; there would then be a Q&A session and then Jeanette Findlay from the Celtic Trust and FAC would sum up and indicate ways in which people could support the campaign.
  • Jeanette Findlay and Michael McMahon had to approach the leaders of the Rangers crowd at one point during the meeting to say that the meeting could not continue if the heckling did not stop.  They were asked to stop by their own people and did so for a while
  • After Kevin Rooney spoke, during which there was a bit of heckling, the Rangers fans were very keen to ask questions and some questions were allowed. 
  • There were very few positive contributions but there were some.
  • However, at that point a large number of Celtic fans left the room on the basis that they felt the meeting had become pointless and was becoming mainly directed towards the Rangers fans rather than a genuine debate about how to oppose the Bill.  At this point there were probably about 100 people left in the room (around 6 from Motherwell, about 47 Rangers and the rest Celtic)
  • Michael McMahon spoke – extremely well – and was well received by all.
  • There was then a number of points made from the hall, including a very good point by a young Motherwell fan (a group of whom had come to take part in the debate) about the heavy and aggressive policing that they are subjected to.
  • At this point the meeting was only 5 minutes from the published end time and the janitor wanted the meeting to end on time.
  • Jeanette Findlay stood up to indicate the timeline for the Bill and the sorts of activities that we were trying to organise, however, as soon as she started speaking the Rangers crowd were led out by the people who seemed to be speaking for them, indicating that they did not wish to hear anything she had to say.
  • The meeting ended a few minutes later.

This meeting did not achieve the aims that were intended and, on that basis, was not a positive experience.  It was particularly distressing for those who felt unable to come into the room and it was unfortunate that the young Motherwell fans were not able to see the kind of purposeful meeting that would have taken place in other circumstances.

The Bill is only 5 weeks from implementation and we do not intend to waste any further time picking over this meeting.  We will be publishing a number of events and activities soon.

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