Celtic fans’ display of ‘paramiltary’ banners during the Champions League match against Linfield has prompted a call for the club to “lance the boil” in respect of fans who celebrate terrorists.
The club has been charged by Uefa for the ‘illicit’ banners which were unfurled during the second half of the game at Celtic Park on Wednesday night which the home side won 4-0.
Underneath a long banner which read ‘Brendan’s undefeated army’, fans displayed another banner with a man in paramilitary attire alongside a likeness of manager Brendan Rodgers with ‘Rodgers at work’ printed at the bottom.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said decisive action is needed by both the club and Uefa after a string of offences in Europe by Celtic.
His interpretation of the banners was that one looked to depict an IRA or dissident terrorist while the other featuring a likeness of Mr Rodgers was a version of the notorious ‘Sniper at work’ sign which was used in south Armagh during the Troubles.
The actions of Celtic fans in Europe has brought the club to the attention of the governing body Uefa on numerous occasions.
Mr Campbell said: “By their actions, this small section of Celtic supporters are putting a two fingers salute up to Uefa and saying we don’t care what you do, we’re going to keep doing this.
“I don’t mind that Celtic are a Scottish club who have an affinity with Ireland, but they cannot allow their supporters to show an affinity with Irish terrorists, which is what they have been doing.
“There is a section of Celtic fans who are serial offenders when it comes to this behaviour. Given the sheer number of such offences it is time that Uefa took decisive action because it appears that the club is not prepared to do so.
“There needs to be a financial sanction greater than the income from the game in order to deter these so-called fans.”
He said that given the fines issued to the four home nations by Fifa for the display of “a neutral, non-political symbol” – namely the poppy – last November that “it would be beyond belief if (Uefa) did not take severe action when supporters display terrorist symbols”.
He added: “Celtic must do more than just issue criticisms of the fans. It is time they lanced the boil once and for all. Despite repeated comments by the club there does not appear to have been decisive action taken to end this kind of behaviour.”
Addressing the trouble during the previous game at Windsor Park where Linfield fans threw objects – including a Buckfast bottle – on to the pitch, he said: “That appeared to be football hooliganism in its more traditional sense and that’s not to excuse it. Linfield have said they will take action and if they can identify the culprit he will be banned. That is how to deal with it.
“There is an additional sinister element to these Celtic banners which are glorifying terrorists who have murdered so many people over such a long period of time.”
Celtic said they have launched an inquiry.
The club stated: “Any support for a paramilitary or proscribed terrorist organisation has no place at Celtic Park. The club has been consistent in condemning such conduct on the very few occasions in the past when it has occurred at Celtic Park. It is unfortunate that such a small minority of the crowd at Celtic Park last night behaved in such a way.
“We know that the Celtic support will join us in condemning such behaviour. Events last night have resulted in charges from Uefa in relation to the paramilitary banners and unsafe behaviour in a section of the Celtic support. The club has commenced an inquiry and will take appropriate action.”
Uefa confirmed that Celtic will face charges for illicit banners, kit infringement and stairway blocking following Wednesday’s game. The case will be dealt with on July 28.