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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Rioters' at Dublin Abetted by the Right

Eight days after English soccer fans rioted at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, and all's well.

After all, the Football Association is looking into the matter; so, too, is the Irish judiciary. The Irish police, the Garda, also have their own inquiry, and the British police have a "hooligan hotline," which members of the public can ring to identify the contorted, hateful faces that loomed from the press photographs of the scenes. And just to make sure we all sleep soundly in our beds, UEFA, the continent's governing body for the game, are "being kept informed." What more could we want?

Well, quite a lot, actually. For studying the events and their immediate aftermath leaves anyone armed with only an ounce of skepticism asking some extraordinary questions about this, the most preventable riot in sporting history.

The responsibility for the malevolent abuse and missiles that rained down from the West Stand rests squarely on the shaved heads of the perpetrators. But the responsibility for preventing these scenes calls into boundless doubt the role of the British and Irish Police, and possibly their respective governments.

But first let us dispose of some mythologies. Those who caused the trouble in Dublin are not some youthful, jobless, urban lumpen proletariat. Those arrested range in age between 21 and 38; few are unemployed (occupations given are tiler, barman, sales executive, businessman, school caretaker, etc.). Several are married and have children.

What many of them are is semiprofessional hooligans. Among them are one Paul Dodd, banned from every ground in the United Kingdom after slashing a Scottish supporter in the face with a craft knife. Another is Terry Hoskings, a 31-year-old decorator from the Lake District town of Kendal. He was at the Heysel Stadium in 1978, when 39, mainly Italian, fans died. Many of the perpetrators are linked with extreme right-wings groups.

Much of this information comes from the British police's Football Intelligence Unit. Several weeks before the Irish match, undercover officers had established that known and convicted hooligans with right-wing links would be in Dublin. They knew their travel arrangements, flight numbers and even their seat numbers.

The British police sent a report detailing all they knew of these extremists and their intentions to the Garda, which did not act upon it. Quite why is not clear. The FIU say the report was sent two weeks before the game; the Irish contest this.

What we definitely do know is that Irish riot units were withdrawn from the ground so early that when trouble broke out only 27 minutes into the game they were two miles away, heading in the wrong direction. Inside the ground were but 51 regular police officers to supervise a crowd of 46,000 fans -- one for every 902 fans.

A panic call to the riot units made them turn their vehicles round, but when they reached the ground they were unable to get in. They hammered on steel doors for five minutes, radioed for someone inside to let them in, had no response and finally had to force open a locked door. Nearly 20 minutes had elapsed since the original emergency call.

It took only marginally longer for a copy of the FIU report to be leaked. Some helpful soul (and you can be sure it was not the Irish police) put a copy the way of the Evening Herald in Dublin, and soon all the media were feasting on its contents. Who leaked, and why?

Chief among the report's points was that one of the orchestrators of the violence was a neo-Nazi group called Combat 18 (so-named for the initials of Adolf Hitler, the first and eighth letters of the alphabet). C 18 has several convicted drug and gun runners among its organizers. It also has close and documented links to the Ulster Defense Assocation and the Ulster Freedom Fighters, both of which are loyalist terrorist groups.

The unit knew that 50 right-wing extremists were at the center of the Lansdowne Road riot and happily confirmed to the press the day after that they "had had reason to believe" that extremists would be set on violence and trying to provoke Irish supporters. And several papers said they "understood" (jargon for a background briefing) the Prime Minister had recently been briefed about C 18.

That all this juicy information was available but not acted upon is incredible. If the Irish police would not act, why was not contact made at a more senior, governmental, level? (These, after all, are supposed to be the administrations co-operating on a rather important peace process.) If the Irish were not given the report in time, why not? How did convicted hooligans get tickets?

These questions may be answered by the three inquiries now in hand, but don't bank on it.