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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 14:36 GMT
'Historic' summit tackles bigotry
Representative from Celtic, Brian Quinn, at the summit on sectarianism
Representative from Celtic, Brian Quinn, at the summit
A summit on sectarianism has been described as a "historic event" by First Minister Jack McConnell.

Never before had representatives from so many walks of Scottish life agreed the goal of establishing a "national plan" to tackle the problem, he said.

Among the 30 organisations at the summit were Rangers and Celtic football clubs, the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland, and the Orange Order.

Mr McConnell hosted the event at Glasgow University on Monday.

Dialogue and action

He called for Scotland to be rid of the "dead weight of religious hatred".

After the summit, he said: "What we have today is a concrete agreement that every organisation represented here will now commit to our discussions and our action to combat sectarianism in Scotland.

"This is a historic event, bringing together people who have never been together in one room before.

"We now have an opportunity, through further dialogue and action, to make a real difference in Scotland and build on the progress that's been made.

First Minister Jack McConnell

"I am delighted by that outcome."

Ian Wilson, grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said that Mr McConnell exaggerated the problem.

"I think sectarianism has declined over my lifetime," he said.

"I think there is a danger of talking it up if we are not careful."

He added: "People in Scotland would be more interested to see him act on inner-city poverty, unacceptable waiting lists, education - there are far bigger issues for him to tackle."

'Real bigots'

Lawrence McIntyre, head of safety at Rangers FC, said that the 90-minute bigots, who shout foul religious abuse for the duration of a football match, must be tackled in order to get at the real problem.

He said: "If we get the people who don't mean it to stop saying it, then we will isolate the real bigots and the real racists in numbers which are manageable."

Peter Rafferty, from the affiliation of Celtic Supporters' Clubs, said he did not deny there was some degree of a problem.

However, he said: "Nevertheless it is very small and things have improved in a lot of ways within our own support because we have been recognised worldwide as the best fans in the world."

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