Tuesday 12 December 2017

TD rejects claims that republican protesters attacked England fans

Lansdowne Road riots in 1996
Lansdowne Road riots in 1996
Dessie Ellis

Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis has rejected claims that English football fans were attacked by republicans protesting against his extradition.

The claim was made by an England fan on the Football Association's official website ahead of this weekend's game between the Irish squad and Roy Hodgson's side on Sunday.

British police have taken measures to prevent nearly 2,000 English football hooligans from attending the game in a move designed to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes from when the sides last met in Dublin 20 years ago.

England fan Chris Hewlitt has claimed on an FA fan forum that five years before the Lansdowne riot, an alleged 1990 protest over Mr Ellis's extradition saw England fans attacked.

READ MORE: UK spotters sent to Aviva in major clampdown on English hooligans

It was one of series of complaints that he raised over the treatment of England fans at games he attended in Dublin, including the infamous Lansdowne Road riot in 1995 that saw the match abandoned.

Former IRA bomb-maker Mr Ellis was extradited from Ireland to Britain in November 1990 in connection with an IRA bombing campaign in the early 1980s.

He was subsequently cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey court in London, after a three-week trial.

Dessie Ellis

Dessie Ellis

In his post Mr Hewlitt expressed his discontent at the way English supporters have been treated on previous visits to Ireland ahead of this weekend's match.

He referred to the alleged republican protest in 1990 which he says happened the day the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Ellis was to be extradited to Britain.

"England fans were drinking by the O'Connell statue when they were attacked by the demonstrators carrying hurling sticks, baseball bats and catapults. The Irish and British press blamed England supporters. So did the FA, as usual," he added.

Last night, Mr Ellis rejected his claims. He told the Herald that he understands there was a "spontaneous protest" on that morning but that the scuffles were between both sets of fans rather than any one group being attacked.

"It's totally wrong to suggest republicans protesting against my extradition went and attacked English fans, that's not my understanding," he said.

The Dublin North West TD called on all fans attending next weekend's game to "act peacefully".

"It's essential next weekend's game is peaceful because a lot of families and children will be there. I remember the game in 1995 and the way English fans behaved then was disgraceful," he said.

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