Widespread disgust has been expressed over the parcel bombs intercepted on their way to Celtic manager Neil Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and lawyer Paul McBride, QC.
Depression is another obvious reaction. There is a danger in leaping to conclusions – the motive for the individual or individuals behind such terror tactics is as yet unknown. But the fact is that one factor unites the potential victims of these letter attacks – a connection to Celtic football club.
The members of the public warned by police to be wary about suspicious packages are also prominent figures who have expressed opinions about issues of controversy connected to the club.
We don’t know what motivated these despicable attempts to injure those on the receiving end of packages, or whether the sender had an allegiance to a particular club or faith.
But what cannot be disputed is that the acts were carried out in the context of a toxic stew of prejudice, sectarianism, football “pride” and faith which has for too long blighted the west of Scotland.
It is probable the perpetrator is acting alone. But for the Celtic manager in particular this looks like the culmination of a steadily worsening campaign of intimidation.
Bullets have been sent to him in the post – there is apparently no link with the current case – and he has been the subject of a number of hate sites on the internet, one of which urged people to shoot him.
Some believe sectarianism is on the wane, or that we shouldn’t exaggerate the importance of a minority of bigots.
So what of the 700-plus people who posted that they “liked” just one hate site on Facebook? What of the hundreds of messages yesterday on social media sites such as Twitter apparently welcoming the targeting of Lennon and others?
Outside of the west of Scotland, it seems baffling that this remains an issue in the 21st century.
But the fact remains that while bigotry can still be dismissed as banter, and simmering resentments are not defused, a minority feel justified in acting in unacceptable ways.
These incidents must provoke a renewed attempt to overcome the problem. What would make a difference? Lip service and summit meetings are no longer enough.
Political attention to the issue has ebbed and flowed, but what is needed is a consistent focus on overcoming sectarian attitudes. A Tsar, responsible for developing a clear plan of action, would be a sensible step forward.
Education has a key role to play, but it is not enough for schools to bring pupils from different backgrounds together only for old intolerances to be fostered by their parents when they return home.
What is needed is a generational campaign. Early years initiatives have been used to good effect in Northern Ireland in an attempt to prevent poisonous attitudes taking root.
However the experience of Northern Ireland has been that religious divisions have been difficult to heal and true reconciliation can too easily give way to an uneasy tolerance.
This will not do. Lasting change must be brought about so that sectarian bigotry becomes as unacceptable as racism, sexism and homophobia.
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