Irish split threatens joint bid for Euro 2008

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The Independent Online

Hopes of a joint bid between Scotland and Ireland for Euro 2008 appeared doomed last night with a unresolved split in the Irish coalition government.

Although no formal announcement has been made on whether Ireland would back the bid, the Football Association of Ireland blamed the Irish Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Mary Harney, for effectively blocking the bid.

The European football body, Uefa, has set a deadline of today for countries to announce their intention to stand. But the FAI claimed hopes of a guarantee that Dublin would be able to provide two stadiums to accompany six venues in Scotland were fading fast.

The FAI's planning and development manager John Byrne, speaking ahead of a meeting with the Irish sports minister, Jim McDaid, maintained that Harney had virtually scuppered the bid. Harney – leader of the smaller party in the Irish Government, the Progressive Democrats – has refused to back an agreement that would lead to the building of a new stadium in Dublin.

She disagreed with the Premier and Fianna Fail leader, Bertie Ahern, over the need for the new stadium, insisting her party had other priorities for the cash. But without the stadium the bid would be doomed, said Byrne, as the only alternative for a second stadium would be Dublin's Croke Park.

Croke Park is owned by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) which forbids its use for any sports other than Gaelic games.

Byrne said: "Without a new stadium the bid would be in the hands of the GAA. She (Harney) cannot guarantee that Croke Park can be used because it does not belong to her. What kind of banana republic do we live in when we cannot provide two stadiums?"

Today's deadline does not require the naming of specific stadiums, just an intention that the full eight would be available between the two nations. But Byrne said: "We cannot just say 'Lansdowne Road and one more'. I think it is appalling."

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