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24 September 2014
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On the Ropes - Donald Findlay QC

Tuesday 2 July, 9.00am, BBC Radio 4

In this week's On The Ropes (BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 2 July, 9.00am, repeated at 9.30pm), Donald Findlay QC tells John Humphrys about the effect singing sectarian, anti-Catholic songs at a party for Glasgow Rangers had on his life, and how he, at one stage, even contemplated suicide.

The Scottish advocate, a supporter of the football club from the age of three, describes how his role as vice chairman at the Club was "almost a fantasy that came true".

And then, he says, he blew it. He describes being filmed singing songs at a huge party to celebrate Rangers winning the Scottish cup as a moment of madness: "The team were there, the players were there, songs were sung, not by me initially but by others, and I joined in."

His action led to him being found guilty of professional misconduct, and he resigned as vice chairman at Rangers.

He says many, many people view the songs as sectarian: "But for 90 to 95 per cent of people who would sing these songs and have sung these songs they are not sung in any way as being anti-Catholic, nor are the words meant in the sense that you actually believe them.

"But that was, I suppose, an appalling naivety on my part and I'd failed to take on board that I should have known better, and of all people who shouldn't have done it, it was me, and that was why I resigned."

He says his first reaction to the news headlines was that it was an absolute load of nonsense. But he also then, and now, says he deeply and bitterly resents the publicity which claimed that he was the kind of man that would sing such songs, because he defended a couple of men accused of sectarian violence.

"I have defended the IRA, I've defended the UDA, I've defended black people who have killed white, white who've killed black, men who've killed women, parents who've killed children, children who've killed parents, protestants who've killed Catholics and Catholics who've killed protestants, just what am I actually against, the whole damn world?

"But then you take out of all of that, of hundreds and hundreds of murder trials that I've defended over the years, you take out a couple of examples and you deliberately present it in a way, and say that proves this man is something because of that.

"It was deliberately done and it was a lie and I will never ever forget or forgive those responsible for that lie."

The publicity surrounding events had a huge effect on him and he became very depressed. He had been Rector at St Andrews University for six years and was supposed to receive an honoury degree from them, and says one of things that perhaps hurt him the most was the fact that they took that from him.

He says he felt very, very lonely, and reached a point in time when he wondered whether everything was worth it, because it just didn't seem to go away: "You’d have thought it might have been a seven day wonder or a two week wonder, but it went on and on and on and on, and it just got to the stage I thought well I really don't know if I want this any more."

He seriously considered taking his own life, and had the pills to do so, but when the night came when it was decision time, he decided he wouldn't do it.

He says one reason that made him change his mind was the people who he cared about, but the other reason was that he didn't want his suicide to be used in any way further to damage or discredit either St Andrews Unversity or Rangers Football Club.

"I was damned if I was going to let them portray me as the vice chairman who had discredited both and then did something that I believed they would have presented as a cowardly act and just added on to it 'and he was a coward'. So I put all that together, picked up the pills, chucked them away, uttered a four letter word followed by the lot of you, and decided to try and fight back," he tells On the Ropes.

Asked if he is glad he made that decision, he hesitates and says "yes".

He says he puts this down to the fact that he is still living with the consequences of his actions: "The fact that it is still there today, and I suppose I know that when they write the epitaph it will feature, that just momentarily makes you hesitate."

Notes to Editors

BBC Radio 4's On The Ropes should be credited in any copy used.



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