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Veterans’ anger as Celtic fans stage half-time protest against poppies

A group of Celtic fans has angered ex-servicemen in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday after they unfurled a giant banner that claimed the poppy was “bloodstained” by military activity in Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The behaviour of a minority of fans at Saturday’s match has infuriated a large proportion of the support, many of whom were astonished at the controversial display as the nation prepares to honour thousands of war dead this weekend.

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Last night Celtic apologised for any offence caused and said they had launched an investigation into the incident, which would appear to breach stadium rules forbidding political demonstrations.

The charity Poppy Scotland described the flying of the anti-poppy banner during Celtic’s 9-0 victory over Aberdeen on Saturday as “disrespectful and regrettable”.

Some Celtic fans are uncomfortable supporting the Poppy Appeal because of the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

One group called The Green Brigade regularly express republican views at games and in recent weeks has stepped up pro-IRA chants.

At half time on Saturday, fans unfurled a giant banner that read: “Your Deeds Would Shame All The Devils in Hell. Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan. No Bloodstained Poppy on Our Hoops.”

The Parkhead club has already said this year marks the end of the recent practice of having the red poppy worn on the shirts of its star players.

However, the behaviour of a minority of fans has threatened to damage Celtic’s standing in the community during a sombre and poignant week when thousands of soldiers killed in two world wars and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are remembered.

Ironically, the club’s current chairman is Dr John Reid, now Baron Reid of Cardowan, who was Defence Secretary in Tony Blair’s Labour Cabinet and supported the war in Iraq.

Celtic fans’ online forums were incensed by the banner, with many believing the controversial display had gone too far.

A Celtic supporter calling herself DanniGhirl on the TalkCeltic forum wrote: “Trying to improve the atmosphere is great -- and something that is well and truly needed and their displays look good, but things like their poppy protest was, in my opinion, ridiculous.

“Some of their song choices (especially at away games) leave a lot to be desired.

“Overall I’m happy they (The Green Brigade) are trying to improve the atmosphere but it sometimes can come across as them just being attention seekers.”

Another supporter calling himself Domo1888 wrote: “Do they not understand that the poppy isn’t just a sign of British Imperialism and that it commemorates everyone who’s died in war, whether it be the British troops, the Gerrys or even those who fought for the IRA?”

Poppy Scotland was quick to make its feelings known on the matter, but recognised the views of the Green Brigade did not represent Celtic supporters as a whole.

Chief executive Ian McGregor said: “Clearly, this incident was regrettable and disrespectful.

“However, I don’t believe for one moment it reflects the views of the overwhelming majority of Celtic supporters.

“The matter is something the club will have to deal with -- we sympathise with them over the difficulty they face.”

Asked how servicemen and women would feel if they saw such a banner, Mr McGregor replied: “I would hope they would not judge a whole club’s support by the actions of a tiny minority.”

A Celtic spokesman said the faction responsible for the banner may be part of a smaller group within the Green Brigade, who were generally well behaved at games.

He added: “The actions of this small minority have no place at Celtic Park.

“We are investigating the matter and how the banner was brought into the ground. We apologise for any offence caused.”

Last year in Scotland, poppy buying raised £2.2 million.

The money is used to help the charity provide assistance to thousands of individual ex-servicemen and women, as well as helping to fund specialist services such as long-term care, housing and help finding employment.

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