Saturday 3 December 2016

Gardaí on beat in France worry about Irish fans going missing

Ralph Riegel and Wayne O'Connor

Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30

Garda Sergeant Séamus Magee mixing with Irish supporters in
Bordeaux, southwest France, yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren
Garda Sergeant Séamus Magee mixing with Irish supporters in Bordeaux, southwest France, yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren

The number of Irish supporters going missing at Euro 2016 is a major concern and is taking up vital garda resources at the tournament.

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Six Irish fans have gone missing in the past 11 days, but gardaí warn the number could rise because of excessive drinking at the European Championships.

All of the missing fans were reunited with their friends or families but gardaí are worried about the possibility of a serious incident involving Ireland fans as the group stage of the tournament comes to a close.

Superintendent Gerry Delmar, who is heading up a garda team in France, is warning Irish fans to stay safe. "We would ask people celebrating to do so in a controlled way and not to overdo those celebrations," he said.

The garda team at the Ministere de l'Intérieur. Picture: Mark Condren
The garda team at the Ministere de l'Intérieur. Picture: Mark Condren

"We have had a number of fans reported missing and thankfully we have been able to locate these people with the assistance of the French police. People are getting isolated from their friends and getting lost."

One supporter was missing for two days earlier this week before turning up safe and sound. However, the gardaí and French police were particularly worried and used mobile phone technology to track his location.

Read more: The Irish have invaded Lille and are predicting one outcome against the Italians

"We see people enjoying themselves and drinking a lot of alcohol. I would ask people to be responsible for themselves and the people they are with," said Supt Delmar.

A group of eight gardaí is working diligently behind the scenes in France to make sure Ireland fans have a safe time.

No arrests, no fatalities and no huge injury scares by the time Ireland's tournament ends would be considered a successful result for the gardaí and that is what they are aiming for.

However, they are concerned about the number of people going missing, especially when fans "get overly caught up in the celebrations".

"We have to investigate them, but we are in a different jurisdiction, so we have to assist the police and get them whatever information they need," said Supt Delmar.

Two members of the garda team are based in a central intelligence unit near Paris. The other six follow the football team around the country.

"It is a challenge and getting the relevant information is hard, especially at night time," said Supt Delmar.

"It takes a lot of work with all the different agencies, the FAI, the Department of Foreign Affairs, ourselves and the French police.

"Once a person goes missing, we all have to get involved to find these people," he said.

The gardaí carry out reconnaissance of each host city and advise local police. Last week, they advised Bordeaux's police to seal off the road outside the Connemara Irish bar in the city centre. But local police said this would be impossible.

As predicted, when Ireland fans arrived in Bordeaux they made a beeline for the Connemara. By Friday, the crowd outside was so vast the police had to give in and close the street to traffic.

"Before the match, we will go around the city and point out the areas where we think they will socialise. It is based on experience. We are from Donnybrook so we have experience working with the Aviva Stadium and have gardaí who are liaison officers with clubs at home," said Supt Delmar.

Irish Independent

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