Dermot Desmond, Facial Recognition and a link to Bernard Higgins

“The message is clear, Bernard Higgins is NOT welcome,” and that message must surely even have reached those often tone deaf custodians in the Celtic Boardroom.

We have had the 30 minutes of silence from the Green Brigade and The Bhoys in the recent match against Livingston. This was followed up by the tennis balls protest at Dens Park, rendered less effective as it happened immediately after the minute of silence was interrupted giving those who have no love of Celtic their annual opportunity to put the boot in and how they relish doing that.

Last weekend after the win over Aberdeen both groups of Ultras staged a sit-in with a couple of supporters – one being Jeanette Findlay from Celtic Trust – joining in from the back of the main stand. I was pitch side after the match interviewing Ange Postecoglou and watched all that unfold.

There’s been an open letter to Michael Nicholson signed by so many fans groups and a letter writing campaign where individual supporters were contacting the Interim Celtic CEO.

This week the campaign went global with fans around the world posting images on social media of their protests against the proposed appointment of Higgins. And at the match against Hearts on Thursday night there were plenty of DIY banners around the ground that indicates widespread opposition to the appointment.

At the recent Celtic PLC AGM the Chairman Ian Bankier was grilled on this proposed appointment but refused to budge and would not discuss the club’s recruitment plans.

If there was nothing in this proposed appointment then there would be little to be gained from Celtic failing to close it down with a simple denial and a re-assurance that the Board don’t have any such plans and don’t even know where the story emerged from. Bankier didn’t do that so it’s reasonable to think that there indeed is a plan in place here to bring Higgins, a man who was heavily involved in the harassment of many Celtic Supporters, particularly those categorised as Ultras under the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act – a hastily enacted, ill-considered bad piece of legislation.

Most Celtic Supporters were not affected by this legislation but knew it was bad law. However as it has been repealed and the priority is getting the entire club united and focused on winning the league and cups this season then the Higgins controversy is one most Celtic fans could certainly do without. And nearly all  believe that the trouble has been caused not by the Ultras in the North Curve or at the back corner of the Jock Stein Stand but by those in the comfiest seats in the Main Stand.

But the nagging question at the back of all this is WHY?

Why would Celtic consider appointing Higgins and even if it was just a bad call WHY have they not come to their senses, put up their hands and say we got this one wrong. Or if humble pie is not their thing, just leak it to their pals in the press, perhaps Stephen McGowan at the Scottish Daily Mail, and emboldened by receiving a very short text message from his contact at the club, could write an exclusive that would be big news and defuse the entire controversy, allowing us all to focus on supporting the team. Why has this not been done?

7th November 2021; Dens Park, Dundee, Scotland: Scottish Premiership football, Dundee FC versus Celtic; Stephen Welsh of Celtic takes a knee for anti racism

Dens Park, Dundee, Scotland: Scottish Premiership football, Dundee FC versus Celtic; Joao Pedro Neves Filipe Jota of Celtic attempts to clear the pitch of tennis balls thrown on in protest against the proposed appointment of Bernard Higgins

WHY? What exactly is behind this proposed appointment of Higgins? There must be a REASON.  We already know from what Ian Bankier said that the role is NOT about policing Celtic Supporters but what exactly is the point in bringing Higgins in? We thought that we’d try to come up with some plausible reason so we went looking, or at least Niall J did. Here’s what he discovered…

Dermot Desmond, Facial Recognition and the link to a Bernard Higgins appointment

I have been looking at Dermot Desmond/Police Scotland and possible links that might have some bearing on the proposed appointment of Bernard Higgins.  This appointment is bugging me as to just why they don’t move on to a second choice…

First up have a read at this article from 2017 in The Irish Times. “Dermot Desmond’s Daon will know all about us, yet we know nothing of it Caveat: Biometrics firm used by banks harvests personal data yet is cloaked in secrecy…”

READ THIS FROM IRISH TIMES…Dermot Desmond’s Daon will know all about us, yet we know nothing of it – Irish Times

Paying by cash, card or selfie. That appears to be the endgame…

Moving forward to 2019 let’s consider this from Independent.ie…A Japanese-focused joint venture led by Daon – Dermot Desmond’s biometrics company – has won a string of new contracts for its digital authentication technology that could see it grow to 15 million users within five years.

Polarify, a joint venture between Daon and Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), provides authentication services for banks, e-commerce providers and other financial service providers. It has signed up a series of new clients in recent weeks, beginning with e-wallet provider Pay Pay, a Yahoo Japan service that boasts 600,000 online customers…

READ THIS FROM INDEPENDENT.IE…Desmond’s Daon offshoot seals Japanese deals

Then moving on to February last year, The UK Human Rights Blog published an article titled “The Use of Live Facial Recognition Technology in Scotland: A New North-South Divide?”. It’s well worth reading the entire article in addition to both of the earlier ones mentioned from the Irish media.

This from  the UK Human Rights Blog: Earlier this month, the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing published a report which concluded that live facial recognition technology is currently “not fit” for use by Police Scotland.

Police Scotland had initially planned to introduce live facial recognition technology (“the technology”) in 2026. However, this has now been called into question as a result of the report’s findings – that the technology is extremely inaccurate, discriminatory, and ineffective. Not only that, but it also noted that the technology would be a “radical departure” from Police Scotland’s fundamental principle of policing by consent.

In light of the above, the Sub-Committee concluded that there would be “no justifiable basis” for Police Scotland to invest in the technology.

Police Scotland agreed – at least for the time being – and confirmed in the report that they will not introduce the technology at this time. Instead, they will engage in a wider debate with various stakeholders to ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place before introducing it. The Sub-Committee believed that such a debate was essential in order to assess the necessity and accuracy of the technology, as well as the potential impact it could have on people and communities.

The report is undoubtedly significant as it reaffirms that the current state of the technology is ineffective. It therefore strengthens the argument that we should have a much wider debate about the technology before we ever introduce it onto our streets. This is important not only on a practical level but also from a human rights perspective, especially set against the backdrop of the technology’s controversial use elsewhere…

READ THIS ON UK HUMAN RIGHTS BLOG…The Use of Live Facial Recognition Technology in Scotland: A New North-South Divide?

Why Bernard Higgins? 

Police Scotland initially wanted to use facial recognition technology by 2026, but have been told that the technology is not robust enough and therefore has been rejected. So there needs to be improvements before there is any chance of implementation.

Meanwhile as we have seen Daon building up contracts, working in the US, Japan and are looking to expand. A contract for Police Scotland would not be a bad gig to pick up given that it could lead to Police forces around the world following suit and adopting a successful model that has operated in Scotland.

And if Daon could provide evidence that their technology works then it could pass the test set for Police Scotland and could open up world markets for the Irish Billionaire who is the biggest single shareholder in Celtic.

Bernard Higgins contacts via a force using surveillance in Scotland could be huge for Desmond and if Desmond’s company can evidence the technology works then Police Scotland can revisit the implementation and re-approach parliament.

Higgins could be that connection to open doors for Desmond.

But why a Celtic role and what would it be? What better way to evidence the technology works in a Scottish environment than at the biggest club with the biggest home crowds and the biggest travelling support, can Higgins open doors at Ibrox for the technology to be tried there, can he open doors for other sporting events, other gatherings, festivals and the likes and more.

Once evidenced will Police Scotland get the green light for their facial recognition policing model and will Desmond be in a position to be front and centre for another big contract, seeing this as the first of many that can be won around the world. Higgins would open the necessary doors in Scotland for him would he not?

I have not had too much time to join dots or delve any deeper but Daon and Desmond link certainly would explain why Higgins is suddenly on the scene on the back of Police Scotland being denied the use of facial recognition technology. It’s only a theory but it one that is perhaps worth sharing on The Celtic Star in the absence of any other plausible reason for Celtic to be prepared to alienate the support  by pursuing this controversial and profoundly unpopular proposed appointment that has effectively united the entire Celtic Support in opposition.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

1 Comment

  1. Martin Leadbetter on

    Does no-one see the irony of the very vociferous and determined protest led by the GB to stop the appointment of a (Celtic supporting) apparently former senior policeman to improve security and fan safety – the same section of the ground throwing missiles at opposing players – Ibrox style. When not tossing tennis balls onto the park.
    Foul mouthed chants (Higgins GTF , Merry Christmas F**k the Hubs etc) and invitations to stand up or clap if you ‘hate’ someone you’ve never met or even know much about – is that the Celtic way really ?
    How do you explain that to the young Celtic supporting kids you take to the game ?
    Like everyone, I love the atmosphere and noise the GB can bring to games but their political influence is growing and , to this old Bhoy’s ears, becoming quite dark and sinister and sits badly with our well earned reputation as best fans anywhere.