Irish police did not accept help

Rioting by English hooligans that caused February's friendly international between the Republic of Ireland and England to be abandoned could have been avoided if the Irish police had acted on intelligence reports from their British counterparts, an official inquiry revealed in Dublin yesterday.

The former Irish chief justice, Thomas Finlay, said the violence was caused solely by the English fans at the game at Lansdowne Road - without any provocation. Soon after the Republic of Ireland had taken the lead, some of the English fans began ripping up seats and hurling missiles on to the fans below.

Twenty people were injured and 40 arrested and the game, watched by 45,000 people, was abandoned after 27 minutes the home side leading 1-0. The judge said insufficient segregation between the English and Irish fans was a contributory factor to the trouble.

The judge went on to say that the assistance of a police intelligence co-ordinator from England, and of a number of English policemen who were acquainted with the appearance of likely troublemakers, would have helped to reduce the extent and level of the violence.

The judge discovered that such an offer had been made by the head of the national criminal intelligence service in Britain but had been declined by the Gardai. He said that the Gardai had received information in the run-up to the game about a flight containing 20 supporters wearing badges which were the insignia of Combat 18, a militant group of right-wing extremists with a reputation for initiating disorder in England.

"With hindsight, certain measures could have been taken by all concerned to contain the violence," the judge said. Plans to reschedule the fixture for later this season have been dropped.