Lennon to ‘keep beating anti-sectarianism drum’

The Republic of Ireland celebrate their World Cup play-off win over Scotland on Tuesday night

Neil Lennon has urged people in sport to continue to take a stand against sectarianism and other forms of bigotry following a string of recent incidents.

Kyle Lafferty was withdrawn from the NI squad over an alleged sectarian comment while a video showed the Republic of Ireland’s women’s team singing a pro-IRA song.

“It is a social thing – you just have to keep beating the drum to try and find a level playing field but it is not just sectarianism,” said the former NI midfielder and Celtic manager.

He added: “There is racism in sport and sexism as well in some quarters. We live in an open society – we are trying to move forward but every now and then we get dragged back.”

Lennon received death threats while playing for Celtic and was forced to pull out of a Northern Ireland match in 2002.

Celtic were recently fined £13,000 by Uefa after fans displayed an offensive anti-monarchy banner during their Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk in Warsaw last month while Kilmarnock striker Lafferty faces a SFA tribunal on 20 October over the alleged sectarian comment, with a 10-game ban possible.

Kyle Lafferty
Kyle Lafferty has made 89 Northern Ireland appearances since making his debut in 2006

Uefa has opened an investigation into “potential inappropriate behaviour” by the Republic of Ireland women’s players for singing the pro-IRA song after their 1-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park which saw them reach the World Cup for the first time.

“I have been through it myself on both sides. It’s got to come from the home,” added the 51-year, who will be in charge of Cypriot side Omonia at Old Trafford on Thursday night in the Europa League game against Manchester United.

“Kyle (Lafferty) has made a mistake. He has to own that. I don’t know the reference about the Republic team.

“The Celtic fans are anti-monarchists and have been for a long time. It is not just a sporting thing. It is a political thing.

“Obviously the Troubles in Ireland have been well documented for over 50 years. How do you change it?

“I can’t comment for the individuals. I can’t speak for the individuals. I just hope they learn their lesson and learn it quickly.”

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