Four hundred gardaí on streets as security plan swings into action for England match
Four hundred gardaí are being deployed on the streets of Dublin tomorrow in a security plan designed to prevent a repeat of the violence that led to the abandonment of the last Ireland v England soccer friendly in the capital 20 years ago.
The big security plan swung into operation at 4pm yesterday with patrols in the city centre being backed up by two full-strength public order units.
The special units maintained a visible presence on the streets, rather than on standby in the background, but were "soft hatted" instead of being kitted out in riot gear.
Senior officers said last night they had no intelligence indicating that trouble makers were on their way. They insisted they were adopting a low-key approach to the game, while at the same time they were prepared for any eventualities.
The number of public order units is expected to be doubled today, with a significant increase in uniformed gardaí as a steady stream of English fans arrive in Dublin.
Special emphasis is being placed on the Temple Bar area, where many of the visiting fans are expected to congregate today and tomorrow morning.
Policing patrols will be stepped up further tomorrow along the route from the city centre to the Aviva stadium and again after the game. A group of police "spotters" from several English forces are flying into Dublin this morning to help gardaí in identifying any known trouble makers.
Only three thousand tickets have been sold to English clubs, but up to 2,000 more are expected to turn up, either with tickets obtained elsewhere or hoping to purchase them here.
Gardaí are hopeful that the football hooligans will stay away because of tough sanctions that can be imposed by the English police, who can confiscate their passports.
Officers are being drafted into the city centre from across the Dublin metropolitan region and all available gardaí, who were due rest days, will be working while the number of public orders units will also be ramped up tomorrow.
Excluding the special units, a total of 400 gardaí will be on duty. The operation is being masterminded by two chief superintendents, one based at the Aviva Stadium and the other in a special command centre.
The kick-off time has been brought forward from 7.45pm to 1pm, at the request of the gardaí, to minimise the pre-match consumption of alcohol.
When Ireland and England last met in Lansdowne Road in 1995, riots instigated by an English hooligan faction marred the occasion. Members of Combat 18 launched missiles on to the crowd below.
Gardaí made 43 arrests on the night and 20 people were hospitalised.
But a senior officer told the Irish Independent last night: "We are not anticipating major trouble. An awful lot has changed since the last game in 1995 and the country will welcome the English fans and hope for a good game.
"We intend to be low-key and adopt a tolerant attitude. But if there are problems, we will be ready."