Sunday 25 September 2016

Euro 2016 - stay safe, dream big

Published 05/06/2016 | 02:30

Ireland’s football fans are renowned, not just on the continent, but throughout the world for the manner of their attendance. Pic: Sportsfile
Ireland’s football fans are renowned, not just on the continent, but throughout the world for the manner of their attendance. Pic: Sportsfile

The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued timely advice to Ireland football supporters who will travel to France over the coming weeks for the European Championships finals, which should be heeded but not allowed detract from what will be a great sporting occasion.

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As always, supporters will travel both in hope and expectation and can be relied upon to bring their usual air of bonhomie and good grace to adorn the occasion. Ireland’s football fans are renowned, not just on the continent, but throughout the world for the manner of their attendance.

It would be a tragedy of massive proportions if the championship was to be marred by a terrorist atrocity of the kind that has become all too common in Europe in recent years, but such a prospect can not be discounted — even if it’s not necessarily to the forefront to the minds of those who intend to travel.

However, the department has urged Ireland supporters to exercise a “high degree of caution”, noting that the championships are taking place against a backdrop of heightened security concerns in France, which remains in a state of emergency since the terrorist attacks of November 13.

The department has developed and implemented a comprehensive action plan to ensure that the Irish Embassy in Paris is supported in its capacity to deal with the likely increased consular demand over the course of the European Championships.

The department is also working closely with An Garda Siochana, the Football Association of Ireland and travel industry representatives on planning and preparation. Ireland’s ambassador in Paris and her team have been working intensively with Uefa and the relevant national and local authorities in France in relation to all aspects of planning. The Irish Embassy there will be reinforced with additional experienced officers redeployed from headquarters in Dublin. Officials will be present on the ground in Paris, Bordeaux and Lille around match dates to provide advice and emergency consular assistance to Irish citizens in difficulty. Specialised consular and emergency response training has been undertaken by the staff at the embassy and additional communications and IT equipment has also been provided in order to enhance our consular capacity. Furthermore, additional financial resources have been allocated to the Embassy to cover extra transport, communications and other costs during the period of the tournament.

In short, everything that had to be done has been done to ensure the security of football fans, who nonetheless should also take personal responsibility to maximise their enjoyment of what will hopefully be a rewarding experience.

As for the Ireland team itself, and its commendable management team? All concerned would be well advised to take on board the words of Muhammad Ali, who died on Friday. The three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, who helped define his turbulent times as the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, once said: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

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