Far right linked to Dublin riot

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The Independent Online
The inquiry into the Dublin football riot began yesterday as evidence emerged of links between the core troublemakers and loyalist paramilitary groups.

The Irish police also came under mounting criticism for the way they handled the violence after it was revealed that they were given an intelligence document detailing the hooligan gangs travelling to the Republic of Ireland along with their flight and stadium seat numbers.

Despite the night of renewed shame for English soccer, the Football Association received international support as it became increasingly clear that the debacle is unlikely to prevent the European Championships being held in England next year.

The FA and Irish FA have launched a joint inquiry into what went wrong as fans rioted and forced the Ireland against England friendly match to be abandoned. The inquiry will focus on how up to 4,000 supporters were able to get into a section of the stand for which only 1,600 tickets were officially sold by the FA.

There is particular concern at how about 50 known extreme right-wing troublemakers, who police say are linked to the BNP, were able to get into the game. These men are believed to have been responsible for making fascist salutes, shouting anti-IRA slogans and hurling missiles.

They are understood to part of the right-wing extremist organisation, Combat 18. This group has close documented links to the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Freedom Fighters and members have been involved in illegal gun-running in the past. The game was abandoned when England supporters started hurling parts of seats at fans below after Ireland scored.

Supporters - Irish and English - in lower areas spilled on to the pitch as they tried to escape the hail of debris and fighting broke out. Forty- one English supporters and three Irish fans were arrested and about 40 people were injured.

Nearly 30 English fans appeared before the Dublin district court yesterday on charges connected with the violence which spread into the city centre. Six were remanded in custody, the rest told to leave the country.

In Ireland, blame for the rioting was last night being levelled at both the Garda and the FA of Ireland, who were in charge of ticket sales in Dublin.

Earlier, it emerged that the Irish police had been warned by Britain's National Football Intelligence Unit that the group of 50 extremists would be going to the match to cause trouble. They also warned about other "target hooligan" gangs. Ireland's Justice minister, Nora Owen, indicated that she was alarmed that gardai had been slow to tackle the violence. She said the riot appeared to involve "a group of English supporters determined to cause trouble".

England fans returning from Dublin yesterday were asking why supporters were not segregated and were able to buy tickets outside the stadium.

An FA spokeswoman conceded it was powerless to stop suspected hooligans from buying tickets because their rules only prevented people with convictions for related offences from getting into matches.

Despite the violence Sir Bert Millichip, the FA chairman, said he believed England would still be allowed to host the European Championships next year: "We are very capable of controlling masses in this country." The FIFA president, Joao Havelange, also gave his backing.