Monday 5 December 2016

WATCH: 'Selfies with security officers, climbing statues or distracting armed police should be avoided' - Irish Ambassador's advice to Euro 2016 fans

Cathal McMahon

Published 01/06/2016 | 23:26

The Irish Ambassador to France has warned Irish fans not to get involved in “high jinx”around security at Euro 2016.

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Speaking exclusively to Independent.ie at her office in Paris Geraldine Byrne Nason said the country remains in a state emergency following two high-profile terrorist attacks in the last two years.

Geraldine Byrne Nason, Irish ambassador to France pictured in her office in Paris. Picture: Damien Eagers
Geraldine Byrne Nason, Irish ambassador to France pictured in her office in Paris. Picture: Damien Eagers

Isil militants have recently warned that they will target the major sporting event which kicks off in June.

Ambassador Nason has warned Irish fans not to take security lightly.

“It would be wise for us to say that it is a state of emergency. There are French security people on the ground called Vigipirate who are around specifically for the anti-terrorist activity.

“People need to use their common sense about hi-jinx. Particularly younger people.”

She explained that when Vigipirate officers are in the area they are there for a reason.

“They are not there to interfere with people enjoying the campaign but activities such as looking for selfies with security officers, climbing statues or distracting armed police from their serious duties should be avoided.”

Ambassador Nason said they are prepared for the tournament and any crisis that may emerge.

Last month they took part in a crisis simulation exercise. The project was designed to test the embassy's readiness in the case of a major event.

The exercise revolved around an imaginary bomb going off in Bordeaux while that Irish fans were based there. She explained that they had to deal with everything from concerned parents to media interviews.

“If there were to be a major incident. We have to always prepare for that. We, here in the embassy, would immediately have a crisis cell that we would put in to operation.

Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ambassador to France holds a letter of support to the French people after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Picture: Damien Eagers
Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ambassador to France holds a letter of support to the French people after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Picture: Damien Eagers

"Back in Dublin we would have a crisis operation that would be put into place straight away."

There will be five diplomats at the Irish embassy in Paris while a temporary consulate – consisting of three diplomats - will travel with the fans to Bordeaux and Lille for the games against Belgium and Italy.

She explained that the support is available for fans “if they are in difficulty”.

“Issues like losing, their passports, being injured, hopefully not being arrested but we are there to help.

“They're typically the kind of challenges we face. It's a consular service we are offering and that is essentially aid to people in need. So anybody carrying an Irish passport, we have a hotline that we have established.

“It will be lit up on the tenth of June. That will be a 24-7 service that we will run for the month of June. The number is 0033144176780.”

However she added that the embassy cannot offer cash or legal advice.

Ambassador Nason, who is originally from Drogheda, Co Louth, said they are preparing for up to 100,000 Irish fans to travel to the tournament.

Asked for her top tips, Ambassador Nason said: “People will be checked for ID. We are recommending highly that people look at the system we have for passport cards.

“Stick it in your wallet so you don't have to carry your passport everywhere with you.

She continued: “The other advice is to stay in touch with home. Our experience with the November attacks was that we had, of course, huge pressure on the system here from families who hadn't been contacted by people they knew were here in Paris.

“A simple message to say 'I'm here, I'm okay' takes pressure off us to deal with the problems that exist rather than really following through to establish if there is a problem.”

Her third piece of advice is to get travel insurance and the European health insurance card.

"After that it's a matter of people being alert, watching the social media. We will use twitter a lot. People need to stay in tune with what is going around."

And if all else fails Ambassador Nason has reminded Irish fans that there will be a team of gardaí in France for the tournament.

"We will have eight gardaí here who will move with the wave of the fans from city to city.

“They will be recognisable as gardaí. We will also have gardaí here in the security control units to help us understand what is happening."

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