Ahern deplores Croke Park scenes


MINISTER FOR Justice Dermot Ahern said he was “astounded” by unruly scenes at the end of the Leinster football final when the referee was attacked.

While no arrests have been made, video evidence of the pushing and jostling of referee Martin Sludden following the game has been handed over to gardaí.

Mr Ahern, who attended the Louth v Meath match, said all “right-minded” people would condemn the incident. Asked if he thought that security at Croke Park needed to be reviewed, Mr Ahern expressed caution about calls for fencing to prevent pitch invasions, saying there had been “awful incidents” at stadiums around the world. However, he added: “Lessons have to be learned to see if there is any way of ensuring that the referee and the umpires are protected.”

Referring to the controversial last-minute goal scored by Meath, Mr Ahern, who is a TD for Louth, said: “If you look at the video afterwards you can see clearly that it wasn’t a legitimate goal.”

When asked if he thought the game should be replayed, Mr Ahern said “that’s a matter really for the Meath people”.

He added: “The reality is that a huge section of that 48,000 [crowd in Croke Park] were Louth people and people were very disappointed at the way in which it turned out.”

He claimed Louth “played Meath off the park and if you look at the game they deserved a victory but, you know, sport can be cruel sometimes”.

The Minister was speaking during a visit to Dungarvan, Co Waterford, yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Sport confirmed informal discussions had taken place with the GAA in the past about the preparation of legislation to deal with pitch invasions, “and further discussions are likely in future”.

Video evidence of the incident had been handed over to the Garda, a GAA spokesman said. “While legislation is an option it takes a long time to get legislation through. We’re ploughing ahead with our own education programme,” he said.

A spokesman for the Garda said: “As with all major events, security surrounding it will be reviewed. There have been no arrests at this point.”

Taoiseach Brian Cowen also attended the match on Sunday. Speaking in New York, he said: “I didn’t see what happened as the ref was leaving the pitch. But obviously none of that is justified. It was an exciting match obviously. But it doesn’t justify anyone engaging in that sort of activity. So I wouldn’t like to see it repeated anywhere.”