a bloody coup for far-right hatred

Nazi group behind night of violence THE EXTREMISTS: THE DUBLIN FOOTBALL RIOT
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The Independent Online
The tightly packed England "supporters" area in Landsdowne Road was awash with talk, not of football, but of sectarian politics, in the lead- up to Wednesday night's riot. The excited exchanges between the "fans" were "all politics", according to an Irish sports writer who ventured into the epicentre of the violence.

"Even as riot police were trying to gain control of the pitch, they were arguing about articles two and three of the Irish constitution," he said, referring to the constitution's declared aims of a united Ireland.

By then, the football ground had become a bloody arena for a televised riot aimed at disrupting the peace process.

The sight of shaven-headed British football hooligans making fascist salutes, shouting anti-IRA slogans and hurling missiles on to the pitch brought the long-standing links between the British far-right and loyalist paramilitaries into sharp relief, despite the background of the ceasefire.

When the Irish team played Northern Ireland in Belfast in November, the game passed without incident. But Wednesday's riot points to a cocktail of football hooligans led by far-right extremists with close ties to loyalist paramilitaries.

Leaked intelligence reports to the Garda Siochana by Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) indicated the Dublin ground would be invaded by known football hooligans linked to the far-right. NCIS also knew "political" thugs would provoke a full-scale riot.

At the core is the right-wing extremist organisation Combat 18, or more precisely Combat One-Eight named after the first and eighth letters of the alphabet - A for Adolph, H for Hitler. C18 has close docu- mented links to the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Freedom Fighters and members have been involved in gun-running.

One is Frank Portinari, a London infant school caretaker convicted of possessing firearms with intent to endanger life last year. He was arrested with James "Budgie" McCrudden, a former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier from Belfast outside a bar in Birmingham. Portinari is believed to be one the UDA's most senior London-based activists and has known links to C18.

The inquiry will look into the adequacy of the combined police and intelligence operation and examine whether they underestimated the influence of C18 as a terrorist organisation. The organisation recently published crude bomb-making instructions with the advice - "Now you have the technology to bomb the bastards."

It is understood that the Prime Minister was recently personally briefed on the threat posed by the group.

NCIS confirmed yesterday that "around 50" right-wing extremists were at the centre of the Landsdowne Road riot.

Regardless of whether stricter ticket distribution is now called for, or even introduced, one source at the Home Office yesterday told the Independent: "This will not be a long-term solution. We have to look at those instigating the trouble."

C18 was formed in 1993 with its roots in the Neo-Nazi football hooligan scene of the Seventies and Eighties. A loose command is headed by top members of the "Chelsea Headhunters" - one of English football's most notorious gangs. A founder, Charlie Sergeant, nickname the "ginger pig", is known to police as a British National Party (BNP) sympathiser.

C18 politics are crudely fascist: ultra-nationalistic, racist, anti-Semitic and fiercely loyalist. Its membership, said to be less than 150, is drawn mainly from Chelsea and West Ham football club supporters' gangs in London with Scottish members from Glasgow Rangers and Hearts - both recognised as the "Protestant" football teams of Orange and loyalist Scots.

According to sources close to C18, the Landsdowne riot would have been "premeditated and planned". From initial Garda reports, it is thought that while ports and airports were being screened on the eve and day of the match, leading members were in Dublin days before.

Tony Robson of Searchlight - the specialist magazine which monitors the extreme right - said: "In theory Combat 18 are supposed to be organised into close cells. In practice, its all word of mouth in pubs or just telephone calls."

According to Mr Robson, C18 activists would create the atmosphere for violence to breed like fire. The ground, as the police knew, contained several hundred known football hooligans belonging to gangs from all parts of England. From NCIS studies of riots in former Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands, C18 does not control, merely manipulates.

Next week the Anti-Nazi League will present "documentary evidence" from a year-long study of what, it says, is National Front and BNP "infiltration" of English football.

Peter Hain, a Labour MP and one of the founders of the ANL, said: "What we saw in Dublin was in many ways predictable."

Last night, the BNP denied that any of its members were involved in the violence.