herald

Sunday 8 December 2019

Riot fears led to lifting of garda overtime ban for Bohs-Rovers derby

Gardai arrive just in time to stop a riot between fans of Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians in Tallaght earlier this year
Gardai arrive just in time to stop a riot between fans of Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians in Tallaght earlier this year

Gardai have been forced to lift an overtime ban for public order units in Dublin over fears of a riot at Ireland's biggest football derby.

Bohemians take on arch- rivals Shamrock Rovers this evening in the FAI Cup semi- final at Dalymount Park in Phibsborough.

The fixture is classed as a "flashpoint" game by gardai, meaning a significant security operation is needed to prevent any possible violence.

However, an overtime ban introduced earlier this week meant the force was struggling to deploy a sufficient number of specialist units needed to police the game.

Shortfall

Nearly 50 riot squad officers alone are needed to police the event, but the ban on overtime meant only half of that number were expected to be available.

Garda management had scrambled to fill the shortfall from units already rostered to work, and the Herald has learned that an overtime ban for the public order units has now been lifted.

For such a high-profile game, six vans of eight members are deployed due to the possibility of violence.

"The ban meant that not even three vans were being filled," a source said.

"There is currently a major scramble to fill the shortfall, and they have now had to allow overtime for it.

"It shows how unworkable it is without overtime that five days into this ban, it has had to be lifted for this particular event.

"Public order units work off overtime, but only working units were initially being used to fill the vacancies which would have the numbers seriously depleted.

"This is a major security concern as specialist units such as the public order unit are needed to police this game."

Each van consists of six gardai, as well as a sergeant and a driver, meaning 48 riot squad officers are needed for the game.

Early yesterday, around three vans, or half of the required number, were available before overtime for the event was granted.

The overtime ban was ann-ounced by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris earlier this week to manage shortfalls in the budget, but overtime has been made available for this evening as an exceptional case.

The fixture between Bohs and Rovers has been marred by violence between rival supporters in recent years.

Earlier this year, a massive brawl was prevented by the presence of the garda public order unit.

Footage of an incident in Tallaght shows rival fans charging each other before a number of garda vans sped to the scene.

Organised

The quick response from the officers, which happened near Tallaght Stadium in April, prevented any major violence.

Last August, at least 50 people attacked and beat each other with fists and bottles on the North Circular Road.

The organised fight took place around 20km from where a significant garda operation was taking place at Tallaght Stadium.

A number of those involved were suspected of planning to attend the match between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers later that evening, and were escorted from the Luas stop to the stadium by the garda public order unit.

As long ago as September, 2003, gardai were forced to make six arrests after fighting broke out between fans at a game between the teams in Inchicore.

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