Republic fans in sectarian storm (Derry Journal)

Senior unionists have slammed the sectarian behaviour of some Republic of Ireland football fans attending Euro 2012 in Poland.

Danny Kennedy and Gregory Campbell were speaking after video footage appeared on the YouTube website showing supporters in the Republic’s colours singing “IRA” and “**** the Queen” on the streets of Krakow.

Newry and Armagh UUP MLA Mr Kennedy said there is no place in sport for sectarianism but feels the latest incident has received little or no media attention — unlike the press onslaught faced by Northern Ireland fans following an incident in Dublin last year.

In the video, six fans are initially involved but then meet up with around 30 others outside a bar who join in.

The supporters can be clearly heard singing the offensive lyrics during a rendition of the Fields of Athenry. In a second video clip, a group of around 20 shout “IRA” on another street corner.

Mr Kennedy, an ardent follower of the Northern Ireland team, said such sectarianism was “an unacceptable side to supporting their team”.

Mr Campbell, the DUP MP for East Londonderry, said the two 13-minute films should be “condemned by all sports fans”.

“Unfortunately this has happened before,” he said.

“There have been incidents at international matches in Dublin when the visiting teams have featured players from Glasgow Rangers who were constantly booed when they touched the ball.

“On most occasions when these sort of things happen it isn’t a majority of fans engaged in it, but that is equally true when it was Northern Ireland fans so it should be condemned by all sports fans.”

Mr Campbell added: “Hopefully the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) will ensure that they take action against the fans if they can be identified.”

Northern Ireland supporters were heavily criticised in February last year when a small number of fans engaged in sectarian singing following their Nations Cup game against Scotland in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Speaking last night, Mr Kennedy said: “At a time when European football is under particular scrutiny for racism, I think many will view this type of behaviour as equating to that.

“By all means they are entitled to support their team but they should refrain from the use of offensive chants and songs.”

Several Northern Ireland supporters also contacted the News Letter to express their disgust at the video.

One fan said: “If this had been Northern Ireland fans it would’ve been all over the news.”

The video was posted on the internet four days ago and since then three Irish fans have been arrested in Pozan where the Republic played their opening match against Croatia last night.

The arrests took place in the early hours of Sunday following a report of vandalism in a bar. Police also detained 10 Polish nationals and one Croat man.

It is understood the Irish men were with a large group of people from other countries when bottles, glasses and a lamp were smashed in a bar in the old market square.

It was described as pre-match celebrations getting out of hand.

The Mayor of Poznan Ryszard Grobelny attempted to play down the incident.

“This is an isolated incident. This kind of incident is not unusual with a gathering of this size and the fans’ behaviour has normally been excellent,” he said.

Mr Grobelny insisted that the police action stopped the violence spreading.

“I would not want to see any incidents of this kind happening. But when you have thousands of fans and many litres of beer drunk these incidents are sadly inevitable,” he added.

The three Irish men were detained on suspicion of public order offences, vandalism and damage to property.

Elsewhere in the square where wider trouble broke out, flares were set off and chairs and tables overturned.

It is understood that some of the Polish men detained were followers of the Lech Poznan football team.

Fans on the scene at the time reported that the trouble lasted about half an hour while officials said that the disturbances lasted only several minutes.

There were at least 20,000 Irish people in Poznan on Sunday night.

The mayor said that on the first day of the tournament, about 47,000 people attended the fanzones in the city and no arrests were made.

Several fans were removed from the square on the opening night of Euro 2012 as a small number of Polish fans clashed.

Staff from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs stationed in Poznan have been notified that the three Irish men had been detained.

Consular officials were told no charges have been brought but investigations are continuing.

Elsewhere, two Irish fans were detained off a flight into the city on Friday after staff on the plane reported them for disorderly and abusive behaviour.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that most of the consular work over the last week has been dealing with lost or stolen wallets or travel documents and problems people had with either unopened or unfinished campsites.


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