Riot gardai out in force for 'early' English fans
MORE than 100 riot squad officers will be patrolling the streets of Dublin from early this morning as England fans begin to arrive for tomorrow's international friendly at the Aviva Stadium.
Gardai have increased security considerably for the fixture between Ireland and England in order to avoid the disgraceful scenes that occurred the last time the two nations met in Dublin 20 years ago.
Known as the Garda Public Order Unit, the highly-trained and skilled officers will be out in force with travelling supporters arriving for the fixture from this morning onwards.
A total of six units, each consisting of 18 officers, will be on standby for the next two days, with the operation believed to be running until tomorrow night, by which time most of the travelling support will have headed back to the UK.
A source told the Herald how the main security concerns could occur today, rather than at the actual match itself.
"English fans will begin to arrive from this morning, and with the Champions League final on this evening they will be out enjoying themselves from early in the day.
"There is real concern that an all-day drinking session could see fights break out, so public order units will be out early to contain any potential disruption," the source said.
"In an ideal world the weekend would pass off peacefully, but that isn't always the case. The sheer number of gardai in Dublin over the weekend and the presence of riot squad officers on the streets will hopefully deter people from causing trouble," the source added.
A similar-sized security operation is expected for next weekend's home European Championship qualifier against Scotland.
When Ireland and England last met in Lansdowne Road in 1995, riots instigated by an English neo-Nazi hooligan faction marred the occasion.
Members of Combat 18 - the numbers chosen to represent Adolf Hitler's initials in the alphabet - freely launched missiles onto the crowd below.
Gardai made 43 arrests on the night for various public order offences and 20 people were hospitalised.
There were questions raised at the time as to why it took the riot squad so long to arrive on the scene.
The Public Order Unit will be positioned outside the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.
Plans are in place for a "swift reaction" should any crowd trouble occur during the game.
Public Order Unit officers will also be aided by the Dog Support Unit and by gardai on horseback from the Mounted Support Unit.
As well as several special units being brought in to ensure the weekend passes off without any major incident, more than 300 gardai will be patrolling the streets.
Gardai have also advised pubs in the vicinity of the Aviva Stadium to close until 4pm tomorrow afternoon, an hour after the game ends.
UK police have introduced measures in the past number of weeks to prevent English hooligans from attending the game.
Almost 2,000 people subject to Football Banning Orders had until Wednesday to surrender their passport, and they must also sign-on to nominated police stations between 10am and 1pm tomorrow.
Speaking last week about English fans, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts said there had been an increase in serious anti-social behaviour in the team's last four away games.
"Regrettably, that means we have to increase our enforcement activity, using tactics that proved successful in addressing these problems in the past.
"We are working closely with An Garda Siochana to support their operation," Mr Roberts said.
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