Incidents Surrounding Ireland — England Soccer Match: Statements.

Thursday, 16 February 1995

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 449 No. 3

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I was at last night's match with my 12 year old son. It was only his second time attending a soccer international. Like many children of his age, he is interested in the game and sees those who play, and indeed those who support soccer, to some degree as role models in life. So I share the dismay and disappointment of so many people, particularly of so many parents of young children, at last night's deplorable scenes which witnessed myself with a growing sense of horror.

I can understand also the shock and embarrassment many English people feel at the appalling display of thuggery by a minority of English fans, though it seems clear that some of them at least were acting in a highly organised fashion to disrupt the game.

I also share the frustration and disappointment of Irish supporters since they were there, as were my son and I, simply to enjoy a first-class game between two very fine teams. The disappointment is all the greater because Irish soccer fans have behaved in such an exemplary way when travelling abroad with the Irish team, in the United States, in Italy, in Germany and elsewhere. Once again last night Irish supporters displayed their respect for the game by not involving themselves in these dreadful scenes and by the disciplined way in which they co-operated with the authorities in leaving the ground prematurely.

I have received a letter from the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, expressing his regret that a top-class sporting event was disrupted by the inexcusable behaviour of a thuggish minority. He has assured me that they are not the true face of Britain, or of British sport. He is right. Of course, the [798] actions of these elements in no way typify the attitude of English people to sport. Indeed, it must be said that the Irish experience of English soccer has been very good. It includes the splendid services of an English manager of the Irish international team and the opportunity English soccer has given to so many of our outstanding and talented footballers to pursue a professional career close to home at the highest world-class level with English clubs.

The game of soccer gives pleasure to many Irish people and to millions throughout the world. It is vital that these few thugs be prevented from destroying other people's enjoyment of this great game and from causing a serious disruption to the general public outside sports grounds as well. The scenes witnessed in parts of Dublin and Dún Laoghaire last evening, where innocent bystanders were caught up in the situation, were not acceptable.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  What happened last night in Lansdowne Road was a most serious outbreak of aggression. Once it started, the Garda showed great competence in getting the 45,000 people or so out of the grounds in just 13 minutes, but, I am concerned that some of what happened might have been prevented. Public safety demands that we know what happened before, during and after this appalling violence. I want a thorough investigation. For this reason I have asked the former Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Finlay, to oversee an investigation and report personally to me on the inquiries being conducted in this jurisdiction and, if necessary, to direct any additional inquiries and to make recommendations.

I have the assurance of the Commissioner that the Garda Síochána will co-operate fully with the former Chief Justice and I call on the FAI and other relevant bodies to assist and co-operate with him.

I deplore the outbreak of aggression and hooliganism we all witnessed at [799] Lansdowne Road last night. The fact that a minority of people can in such a violent and frightening way, disrupt the enjoyment of so many thousands of supporters is reprehensible, is to be condemned and requires the most serious investigation by all relevant authorities.

From what I saw, it appeared as if a group of followers among the English supporters were determined to cause trouble and disruption. I do not have to tell Members what happened. They will have seen how events unfolded by the repeated replay of the disgraceful scenes across a number of television channels.

Officials in my Department engaged in lengthy discussions with the Garda about this appalling occurrence late into the night and this morning. I met with the Garda Commissioner and other senior gardaí so as to be as fully briefed as possible in advance of today's statements in the House.

The first and extremely worrying point is that, this, it seems, was more than mindless anti-social behaviour of drunken teenage football fans. Present indications are that the violence and mayhem were perpetrated by an organised far right element. It would seem that these thugs set out quite deliberately to cause trouble as part of some warped political agenda. This has to be a cause of grave concern for all right-thinking people.

In a Europe which is dismantling internal frontiers, it is vital that mechanisms be devised to keep track of thugs in order that pre-emptive action can be taken.

The lesson from last night is not just for us. It is for all of Europe. This is especially the case when one considers that the European Championships are due to be held in England next year. The cancer which has attached itself to English football must be dealt with once and for all. Quite simply, there is no place in any football ground, in any city [800] or country, for these thugs. They are intent on havoc and will always find a pretext to engage in this type of behaviour.It defies belief that these people would use a football game, a friendly football game, as a vehicle to, as they see it, disrupt the peace process. This must be the ultimate obscenity.

I know the ordinary decent English football fan will share my view that, for the good of everyone, these people must be prevented from pursuing their vile agenda. Last night, a joyous occasion which brought Irish and English people together was ruined by thugs. This is unacceptable and cannot, ever, be tolerated.What we saw last night must never happen again. What happened in Malmo, in Rotterdam and, now, in Dublin, is an affront to the ideals of sport. Indeed, it makes a mockery of all that sport stands for.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, prior to the match, the Garda were in continuous contact, over the last six weeks, with the FAI, the English FA and their policing counterparts in England with a view to planning and putting in place all the necessary arrangements for pre-match, during-match, and post-match periods. I am informed that approximately 800 members of the Garda Síochána were deployed around Dublin last night with over 400 of these deployed in and around the immediate vicinity of the stadium. In addition to the heavy Garda presence I understand that the FAI had in the region of 800 stewards on duty at the grounds.

At this stage, all I have by way of reports from the Garda Síochána are verbal reports of this violent outbreak and the gardaí's success in containing it to one section of the ground.

I know, however, from the Garda Commissioner that he has appointed an Assistant Commissioner to inquire into all aspects of the Garda planning and deployment of resources for the match. [801] This inquiry and report is to be concluded as quickly as possible. I know from my colleague the Minister for Sport, Deputy Allen that both the FAI and the English FA are also examining arrangements for the match from their perspectives. I will not react hastily to the events of last night or make instant judgments as to what went right and what went wrong. I am concerned that some of this could have been prevented. I want to make sure all of the examinations and inquiries into last night's events are co-ordinated and published in the interests of public safety.

I have heard of and read various analyses of how last night's rioting could or should have been tackled. I will suspend judgment on these matters until and only until I receive a full report. If the report is to the effect that strategies need to be revised or updated, then they will be. If approach needs to be changed, it will be. What happened last night was unprecedented in Irish sporting history. We must take steps to ensure that it never happens again.

While it is right to suspend judgment pending receipt of a report, I am in no doubt that the core question is how these known thugs were given tickets in the first place. The gardaí were informed of the identity of these people. They knew their travel plans and their location since they arrived here. There is no power vested in the gardaí or British police from the point when people get the tickets onwards, to prevent those concerned from attending the match. Only those who were disruptive in a sufficiently serious way before the match — and there were some — could have been prevented from entering the stadium and held by the gardaí. The question still remains, could those identified persons have been prevented from getting tickets, from leaving the UK and from gaining admission into the stadium for that football match.

Because there are different agencies involved, the Garda and both the [802] English and Irish Football Associations it is necessary that I ask an independent person with the necessary expertise and stature to oversee the various inquiries now under way.

I have requested the former Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Finlay, to oversee the inquiries and report to me. I have the assurance of the Garda Commissioner that the gardaí will co-operate with the former Chief Justice and I call the FAI and other relevant agencies to assist him and co-operate with him. I have indicated that I want this report shortly and I have mentioned a period of three weeks and no more.

Last night's violence was disgraceful and shameful and is to be rightly condemned.A number of serious matters arise out of last night's frightening unprecedented scenes at an Irish sports venue. The FAI, the English FA, and the Garda need to review arrangements that were in place for last night, report to me, to the former Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Thomas Finlay and to the Minister for Sport, Deputy Bernard Allen. I hope Mr. Justice Finlay will receive that co-operation.

We will not tolerate the peace and enjoyment of the vast majority of Irish and English people being destroyed by a minority of malicious thugs.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I wish to share my time with Deputy Cullen.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  That is acceptable, Deputy.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  We in the Fianna Fáil Party condemn the outrageous behaviour by so-called English soccer fans at last night's soccer international in Lansdowne Road. The truth is that those people are not fans, they are most definitely thugs of the worst type. I sympathise with true English soccer fans and the overwhelming majority of English people who have had to endure the wanton violence of those criminals [803] for far too long. The sportsmanship of the vast majority of the English people was possibly best exhibited when they came in their thousands to Lansdowne Road to play Ireland in a rugby international when there was none of this violence.

I pay tribute to the Irish fans present at last night's international. They have enhanced their stature in the eyes of the world once again. We are justifiably proud of them because of their pride in their country and because they are now firmly established as among the most sporting fans in the world. In that context I acknowledge there were many true English soccer fans at last night's game who never would and never have participated in or condoned the thug's behaviour. People are entitled to attend and enjoy a sporting occasion without interference of any kind, let alone the type of violence witnessed last night. We have a duty to ensure people have the freedom to do this. Accordingly, any measures required to prevent a recurrence of this full scale riot must be rigidly implemented. In order to ascertain the measures required, serious questions must be posed and answered in regard to last night's dreadful events.

The English authorities sought and obtained a relatively small allocation of tickets for last night's game. It is evident that English FA Travel Club which distributed the tickets failed miserably in its task. The fact that members of the National Front were able to travel from England for the game stands as a severe indictment of those responsible for ticket distribution. In those circumstances it will be clear to everybody in this House, and outside, that the English FA must get its act together in regard to the distribution of tickets to its fans or so-called fans in this instance.

It is clear that English FA Travel Club and the FA know the history of English soccer hooliganism which has caused violence and deaths in the past. [804] This hooliganism is firmly rooted where the National Front is concerned not just in hatred and downright criminality but in racism. It is obvious that the English FA must urgently review its system of ticket distribution, not only in the interest of people's safety at grounds around the world but in the interests of their own game.

Given the knowledge which was available to the British police it is extraordinary that there was not a heavy police presence among these hooligans from the moment they left England. Their fellow passengers are extremely fortunate that the thugs did not decide to indulge in their sub-human activities before arriving here. We do not know whether there was an undercover police complement but it is clear that these individuals deserved extremely close monitoring. The general public and those travelling with these thugs were entitled to expect a heavy police accompaniment or, at the very least, a heavy undercover police presence on the journey to Ireland.

I commend the gardaí on duty at Lansdowne Road last night. Those present were in danger of sustaining severe injuries and I compliment them for the manner in which they dealt with the violence. We would be fooling ourselves and not doing ourselves a service if we did not pose serious questions. Serious questions must be asked, and answers are required, regarding operational security matters surrounding last night's game.

Given the information available to those in charge of security one can be forgiven for asking the reason the hooligans were not accompanied from the moment they arrived here to the time of their departure. Further, given the appalling record of these thugs it is surprising riot police were not stationed outside and inside the grounds before, during and after the fixture. It is obvious that riot police should have been interspersed with these criminals during the [805] course of the game. In this context I ask the Minister whether she discussed security procedures with the Garda Commissioner and the Assistant Garda Commissioner in advance of the game. I ask this because of the information which was apparently available to those in charge of security operations. Will the Minister accept that, given the information available, the general public should have been informed in trenchant terms that there was a serious probability of violence at Lansdowne Road last night?

In the light of the threat which existed it is clear that insufficient attention was given to the need to provide a visible and effective deterrent. The general public was entitled to expect there would be an isolation and segregation of English fans attending the game. These fans should have been located at ground level. The sad truth is that when England's international soccer team play abroad, violence need not only be expected but assured from a small minority.

I welcome the inquiry announced by the Minister for Justice and I look forward to a speedy report. I hope the Minister will implement recommendations arising from the inquiry in the interests of the game of soccer and in the interests of the safety of people attending games in Ireland in the future. The question of crowd control must be addressed. Will the Minister say whether a committee, which included the Garda and FAI officials, was set up in advance of last night's game?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Yes.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Will the Minister say whether any members of the Hamilton Committee were consulted? Were senior Garda officers who have had considerable involvement and experience in crowd control at sporting fixtures in Dublin and abroad consulted? Their [806] experience would have been of enormous benefit. In short, there are extremely valuable lessons to be learned from the unfortunate events of last night. No amount of discussion will hide the fact that there is an urgent need, in the context of future fixtures here, for proper measures to be put in place. We are fortunate that deaths did not occur last night.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  I thank my colleague for allowing me a few moments to pay tribute to the memory of Danny McLoughlin who died tragically while attending the match in Lansdowne Road last night. Danny McLoughlin was a friend of mine. He was a man who epitomised all that was traditionally great about football in Ireland. He devoted his entire life to Bohemians Football Club in Waterford and to training many generations of school boys who were members of that club. I was one of the fortunate school boys who benefited from his tutelage. It is a measure of his greatness that last year when my ten year old attended a match I found him running up and down the sideline encouraging children. We all know people like him. His death comes as a shock to all of us in the city. On behalf of everyone in the city I offer my deepest sympathy to Danny's family.

In 1966 I was fortunate, as a 12 year old school boy, to attend World cup games in Liverpool and Manchester. I want to pose the question to the English FA, FIFA and UEFA: how can I as a parent — ironically I will have a child 12 years of age next year — make a responsible decision to bring my children to the European Championships in England next year? Whether we travel from Ireland or from whatever country to see the European Championships, we must have confidence in the security arrangements. Much deep and serious thinking needs to be done by the authorities involved.

[807]Ms O'Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  On behalf of the Progressive Democrats I welcome the Minister's statement that she has requested the former Chief Justice to head an inquiry into the whole affair. The report of that inquiry should be published and dealt with in public. It should not be a private report commissioned by the Minister for the Cabinet alone. It is in the public interest and in the interest of public safety, that the findings of such an inquiry be disclosed and debated in public.

I attended the match last night with my husband and two small children and we saw the events unfolding from our seats in the east stand. Fifty people were injured and many thousands left the ground traumatisesd by what happened. It is very fortunate that we are not reflecting on a much more serious tragedy. I commend the actions of the gardaí at the ground who had to deal with an unexpected series of events. Given the resources at their disposal they dealt very well in containing the violence and evacuating very quickly and safely the members of the public who had been watching the match.

It is important to recognise that, as in the case of all crime, the blame for last night's violence lies with the perpetrators, the small group of people who travelled here with a political and violent agenda and who alleged they were fans. It appears from the slogans and leaflets proclaiming “English Invasion of Dublin 1995”, “Ulster is British”, “No Surrender” and “God Save the Queen”, that the National Front and other notorious right wing elements from England were the root cause of last night's trouble. There is no ambiguity about the blame for last night's events.

Political questions arise about the adequacy of the security arrangements drawn up jointly by the Garda and the Football Association of Ireland, bearing in mind that the Garda had advance warning from its British counterparts [808] that known trouble-makers were on their way to Lansdowne Road. Details of the warning were spelled out by the head of Britain's national intelligence unit, Chief Superintendent Brian Drew, on RTE radio today. There is a clear inconsistency between his statement and that of the FAI General Secretary, Mr. Seán Connolly, who said that they knew nothing about the anticipated trouble. The statement forwarded to the Garda by the British national intelligence unit outlined it had specific knowledge that there would be trouble in the ground as distinct from outside it. There are questions to be answered in that regard.

There are other pertinent questions about the nature of the Garda operation at the grounds last night and the intermingling of Irish and English fans in the same section of the stadium. The event was ruined for the genuine fans and they are entitled to answers from the Minister for Justice, who has responsibility for the operations of the Garda, and the FAI authorities. The questions to be raised include the nature of the advance warning received by the Garda from its English counterparts and the measures it took to deal with it. Was the intelligence of a general or specific nature — this harks back to the Garda operation in the Brinks Allied robbery? The Minister for Justice said that good intelligence is the lifeblood of all police work, but there seems little point in gathering and passing on intelligence if adequate and appropriate responses are not put in place on foot of that intelligence.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Who said they were not put in place?

Ms O'Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  Obviously they were not. Did the Garda not inform the FAI authorities of the warning about the likelihood of known trouble-makers attending the match? Who made the decision to allocate tickets to English [809] fans for such a strategic position as the upper deck of the west stand at Lansdowne Road? Were gardaí posted to that section of the stand from the time the fans began to arrive in their seats? How many gardaí were on duty?

The Minister said there were 400 gardaí around the grounds last night, but were gardaí posted to that particular section of the stand? Is it true that 85 phase 5 Garda trainees were transported by bus from Templemore, after undertaking an examination yesterday, to help with the operation and transported back in the early hours of this morning and, if so, was this an appropriate response to the anticipated thuggery?

Where was the Garda riot squad stationed? Was it based mainly in Dún Laoghaire and is that the reason it took so long for them to arrive in the grounds? Why were fans, on entering the ground, not searched for identification such as passports? It is normal practice for British fans supporting their team abroad to be asked for identification, but that was not done last night. Why were some of the tickets which were allocated for English fans sold to Irish fans? This could have had very serious consequences as Irish fans, including children, found themselves innocently involved in the violence.

I have said before in this House — and it is important to reiterate — that the gardaí are ordinary men and women who do extraordinary work, and I commend them for the work they did last night. However, there are questions to be raised at senior management level as to the operational decisions taken about this event. The job of senior Garda management is to manage the force and to be accountable not only to the Minister but to this House. There is insufficient accountability and answerability for the operational decisions by senior gardaí in a whole range of areas of the criminal justice system. No arm of the criminal justice system should be so [810] independent and distant from this House as to be unaccountable. There should be a full system of accountability in this democracy. A special committee of the House should have power to put questions to the Garda Commissioner and scrutinise the operational decisions made.

The background to the issue of accountability and morale in the Garda, which is very important to our criminal justice system, is an industrial relations dispute which has been festering for many years. Rejection of the Mulvey report by the GRA has caused serious morale problems in the Dublin region. The Garda Federation which represents the majority of the members of the Garda in Dublin is experiencing great difficulty because it does not legitimately represent those members. This matter must be considered by the Minister and the Garda Commissioner.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It was not dealt with by the last Government.

Ms O'Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  The deadly cocktail of football hooliganism and political extremism demands a more sophisticated policy response from the Government and the Garda Commissioner, based on some of the European models. I look forward to the outcome of the two inquiries requested by the Minister. The Commissioner is to report to her privately and a separate independent report is to be compiled by the former Chief Justice. The public should be informed of the plans for policing such events in future.

Mr. E. Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  I wish to share five minutes of my time with Deputy Ryan.

Acting Chairman (Miss Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. E. Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  I express my deepest sympathy to the family of the man who died from a heart attack while leaving [811] Lansdowne Road last night and I hope all those who were injured will make a speedy recovery. I also express my sympathy to the gardaí, many of whom were ill-equipped to tackle the thugs in the stadium. It is about ten years since almost 40 Italian football fans died when a section of the Heysel Stadium collapsed under the pressure of rioting Liverpool supporters.

Last night Ireland, like Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Norway and Germany before, played host to English football knuckleduster tourists and Lansdowne Road was turned into a battlefield as Irish and English fans were pelted with chairs and broken bottles by the same neo-Nazi thugs who often batter blacks and Asians for sport at home. It is approximately 20 years since neo-Nazi skinheads started orchestrating violence at football matches in Britain and Germany. Last night, 50 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we watched neo-Nazi thugs grinning and giving the Nazi salute in our football stadium.

Football hooligans are generally described as mindless. However, this is to trivialise the political motivation behind their actions. The small hard core of British National Party supporters who started last night's violence were at the match for one reason only, that is, to export their racist ideology. This ideology is repulsive and unsophisticated and, as we witnessed on our television screens last night, can cause death and injury and create havoc. I want to make it clear that that small group of English supporters is to blame for last night's incident. They deliberately started the riot, co-ordinated their actions and came prepared to do battle with the Garda, as they have done with every other police force in Europe.

One must ask why the Irish authorities were so ill-prepared to deal with this incident which is similar to incidents which took place on the Continent in [812] the past 20 years since Tottenham Hotspur supporters rioted in Rotterdam. When the referee called off the match last night it was abundantly clear that the Garda and the FAI had lost control of the situation. It is questionable whether either of them was even in control up to then.

The English Football Association, the FAI and the Garda must answer a number of questions, which I understand the Minister will put to them. Why were British National Party supporters not weeded out by the Football Association when tickets were being allocated? Why did the FAI seat English fans in the upper tier of a stand where they were perfectly positioned to throw missiles at Irish and English fans in the lower tier? Why were the fans not segregated? Why did the FAI bring forward the match which resulted in English fans travelling the day before and having more time to get drunk in pubs? Was there sufficient liaison between the stewards and the Garda and why were conflicting messages broadcast over the public address system, thereby causing further confusion?I have every confidence that the Minister will get answers to these questions.

There is a central matter which must be dealt with. Can the word's football playing countries continue to allow English fans to travel to away matches? All of us recoil from discrimination, which is what the British National Party stands for. Nobody wants ordinary English fans to suffer because of the actions of thugs. If the English Football Association does not clean up its act and ensure that tickets are issued to legitimate fans then football stadia will have to be surrounded by the trappings of a police state, which we do not want, or all English fans will have to be refused entry to matches. This would represent a victory for thuggery and would be the worst possible outcome. I look forward to hearing the findings of the investigation.

[813]Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  On behalf of the Labour Party I wish to express my sorrow and regret at the events in Lansdowne Road yesterday evening. The images and pictures on our television screens and in the newspapers do not reflect the way in which most soccer fans conduct themselves at home and abroad. Unfortunately, a small minority of English football hooligans — I use that word judiciously — set out to destroy last night's friendly match between the Republic of Ireland and England. I was one of the many spectators at the match who witnessed a small group of neo-fascist thugs engage in depraved conduct and ruin what should have been an enjoyable sporting occasion. These people have no right to spoil football for the majority of soccer fans and they must be rooted out as soon as possible. This will require increased co-operation between the football associations and police authorities in Europe and throughout the world.

When the violence erupted in the stadium I watched in horror as many parents tried to protect their children from these vile and disgraceful scenes. There is a very poignant picture in today's newspapers of a young boy witnessing his soccer dream fall apart. Like many others, he had gone to Lansdowne Road to see his sporting heroes, Niall Quinn, Paul McGrath and Alan Shearer. I thought about him and the many children who left the ground robbed of their soccer dream and for whom the good name of soccer has been destroyed. The violent scenes they witnessed last night will live with them forever.

Many people were injured by last night's violence which also led to the death of one person. I extend my sympathy to the family of the man whose death was caused by last night's violence.It was obvious that the authorities were taken by surprise when the ugly scenes broke out. I wish to praise the Garda and the hundreds of stewards for [814] the manner in which they dealt with the incident.

The investigation must get answers to a number of questions. The English Football Association must be asked to explain how hooligans obtained tickets for the match. Given the record of English fans, why did the authorities not segregate the two sets of fans? It is imperative that these questions are answered in the interests of sport and that any recommendations that follow the inquiry are implemented in full. We must ensure that the good name of the Irish soccer team and its fans is not tarnished by last night's events.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I call Deputy Liam Aylward who has three minutes.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  Can you explain why I have three minutes only?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am obliged to call the Minister at 4.40 p.m.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  I understood I had five or ten minutes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  According to an order of the House today, the Chair is obliged to call the Minister at 4.40 p.m.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  I think there is some confusion, and you might give me some latitude.

I join with Deputy Cullen in extending sympathy to the family, whom I know, of the late Danny McLoughlin who died when he was leaving the match last night. I also wish to extend my good wishes to the many people who were injured.

The outrageous conduct of a number of English fans in Lansdowne Road last night has left us all stunned and disgusted.This does not reflect on the conduct of hundreds of thousands of English fans who travel the world to [815] support their teams in various sports. The thousands of English supporters who attended the recent rugby international behaved impeccably and enjoyed the sporting occasion with their Irish opponents. Irish fans must be the best behaved in the world. They have travelled to different continents to support the soccer team and they have been a credit to Ireland. Their admirable discipline was evident again last night when more than 40,000 people were evacuated from the stadium without any trouble. This is in direct contrast to the behaviour of a number of English hooligans.

Questions arise about who must carry responsibility for last night's disaster. I am not interested in engaging in a witch-hunt but I welcome the inquiry set up by the Minister. I hope a report will be produced quickly and that we will never again witness a similar event.

Did the Minister for Justice meet the FAI prior to this sporting event? Given the possibility of difficulties it was important for her to meet the security forces.

Why were 4,000 tickets allocated to the English Football Association for distribution?There was a danger that problems would arise if a sizeable number of English fans were present. This should have been anticipated. For the various games between the Republic and Northern Ireland no tickets were allocated to the visiting countries for distribution among their supporters. I was one of the few people from the Republic present in Belfast for the World Cup qualifying game which took place in a hostile atmosphere. I am glad no tickets were issued on that occasion.

It appears that the FAI and the FA had very loose arrangements for the distribution of tickets on this occasion, in particular to the travel club in England. It is my understanding that the members of this club had to present some form of [816] identity, with a photograph and signature, to obtain a ticket which was nontransferable.From the information I have received it appears this system broke down last night and that tickets were freely available to many other fans.

What consultations were there between both football associations and the respective police forces on where fans should be located in the ground? We will have to consider introducing a different system for distributing tickets to visiting fans in future, in particular English fans. I am always amazed, not just at soccer matches but at other sporting events, that tickets continue to be available from ticket touts. That was the position last night when a large number of tickets were available at face value.

It is of vital importance that a frank and open inquiry should be held into all aspects of this débâcle encompassing not only the Department of Justice but also the sports section. Is this stadium geared to cater for large crowds in excess of 45,000? We should also consider the possibility of holding matches during the day — when fans could be vetted — rather than at night.

Great concern has been expressed at the delay of approximately 40 minutes before the Garda took action. When it did it handled the matter in a most professional way and deserves our thanks. Is it enough that the Garda has to rely on visual contact? Should there not be a proper spotter system throughout the stadium, including video equipment, to prevent trouble? I strongly support the idea of mounted police at sporting events. This seems to be one of the most efficient methods of crowd control.

How much information was made available to the Garda authorities by the British police? It has been indicated in the media that warnings were issued and tip-offs received by the British police indicating that some of the fans travelling to Dublin were intent on causing trouble and would be very dangerous. [817] These people were easily identifiable. I understand that information on the times of flights and the places from where these people were coming was available. It has been alleged that some of them are well known members of the National Front and had nothing else in mind but to cause trouble. It appears there is some truth in this given the number of arrests and the problems in Dublin the previous night. We should have been warned in advance. These hard-liners are experts in collective disorderly behaviour and mob rule and, unfortunately, they succeeded in their efforts last night.

Although a number of people were charged in our courts last night and this morning I am annoyed that hundreds were transported from the ground to the airport and the ferry without any charges being brought. They must be laughing themselves sick at the mayhem they caused — and got away with — in Dublin.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy should now conclude, please.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  They should have been charged. There should be a deterrent in the future. If necessary, they could have served their sentences across the water. It is important to make the point that many people suffered great financial loss.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I must call another speaker, Deputy.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  No, this must be said.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I have given the Deputy much latitude.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  The Council of Europe has issued a directive on crowd control and safety at matches. Legislation should now be considered. I was always reluctant to interfere with the enjoyment of sporting occasions but because [818] of what happened at Lansdowne Road last night we must take a different view. I will be prepared to co-operate with the Minister in bringing forward proposals in that regard.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  With the agreement of the House, notwithstanding the order of the House, the Minister can still have five minutes. Is that agreed?

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Ten minutes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Five minutes, in accordance with the order of the House.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  As Minister of State with special responsibility for sport, I extend my sympathy to the family of the late Mr. McLoughlin who may, possibly, have died as a result of what happened last night at Lansdowne Road. I was present at the match and I was appalled and sickened by the disgraceful scenes we all witnessed. What should have been a great occasion for Irish sport was ruined by the disgraceful behaviour of elements of the so-called fans from England, who did not come to Ireland to enjoy the game and our hospitality.

I am concerned about the good of Irish sport, its promotion, its development and, most important, its good name. I am concerned also that genuine Irish sports fans and their children should be able to enjoy sport in comfort and safety.

I had discussions this morning with representatives of the Football Association of Ireland and with the English Football Association. The FAI informed me that it issued 3,800 tickets to the English FA. Visiting teams would normally expect 10 per cent of the total allocation.

At a subsequent meeting this morning with a representative of the English FA, I was informed that 1,664 tickets were [819] sold through their travel club. I understand that match tickets are only issued to members of this travel club on production of a current membership card.

According to the FAI, 1,200 tickets were returned and subsequently sold through well-known and reliable sources. This leaves around 1,000 tickets to be accounted for. Who bought those tickets and how did the troublesome visiting spectators, the hooligan element, get tickets in the first place?

I raised these questions very forcefully with the English FA representative who confirmed that its allocation was made through the travel club, but that an immediate inquiry is underway to see if there has been any weakness in its mechanism for the distribution of tickets.I suggested to him that since England has not played an away game for about 15 months, perhaps its system is not completely up-to-date in identifying undesirable applicants.

I spoke this morning to the Minister for Sport in England, we discussed the incidents in Dublin last night and how any repeat occurrence can be avoided. We have arranged to meet next week to discuss the matter in greater detail.

The FAI representatives also confirmed that they have already initiated a detailed investigation of the events and will report to me at an early date. I was impressed — I was present after the fans had left — at the efficient manner in which the authorities coped with the evacuation of the Irish fans from the stadium which was cleared in 13 minutes and serious injury and possibly worse was avoided. The behaviour of our fans was impeccable.

Yesterday morning, in this House, I outlined some of the priority tasks I intend to undertake. I mentioned ethics in sport and the need for a national drug testing and education programme. I also said I am concerned about spectator safety and crowd control at sports events and that, as a priority, I will [820] ensure the early publication of the code of practice for safety at sports grounds. This will be done without delay. I was surprised by Deputy Aylward's comments about this code. The report was finalised in 1990 and little work was done since its publication. I intend to deal with it as quickly as possible.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  I said I was reluctant to interfere.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The code of practice will be circulated widely to sports organisations, management authorities of stadiums and organisers of all major events. I confirm, as the question was asked by Deputies O'Donnell and O'Donoghue, that the report, when finalised, will be made public. Having attended the match last night and having seen what happened, I believe if the gardaí had been placed among the spectators, we would be talking here tonight about deaths rather than injuries and damage to property.

Deputy O'Donnell asked numerous questions and I assure her all of those will be addressed in the report.

I have watched various news reports on the match in the past few hours and I am concerned about comments in the British media by commentators and politicians some of which were patronising.People jumped to conclusions about what happened last night. I ask that final judgment be delayed until all the issues are examined and the report published.Comments from people who should know better should be left in abeyance.

Debate adjourned.


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