Anger at Garda response to cup final violence

Travelling UK fans believed to be primarily responsible for trouble ahead of game

A  group of St Patrick’s Athletic fans who had gathered in  Irishtown House came under attack by another group

A group of St Patrick’s Athletic fans who had gathered in Irishtown House came under attack by another group

 

There was only a “skeleton crew” of public order gardaí on duty for the FAI Cup final between Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic on Sunday which saw significant violence near the Aviva Stadium.

There were only about a dozen dedicated public order gardaí on duty to police the 37,000 fans who travelled to the Aviva Stadium in Ballsbridge, sources said.

Previous games between the two teams have attracted significantly more policing resources. There has long been a rivalry between the fans of both clubs, although serious violence is rare.

The violence started when a large group of St Patrick’s Athletic fans who had gathered in the Irishtown House came under attack by another group who were mostly wearing black and had their faces covered.

Glass bottles and flares were thrown into the crowd and several people were assaulted. The windows of several vehicles parked on the street were also smashed.

A Garda investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made. Gardaí believe the majority of the violence was not carried out by Bohemians fans but rather by a group who had travelled over from the UK. Members of this group are believed to be supporters of a UK team which has a long-standing association with Bohemians.

Fans caught up in the violence criticised the length of time it took gardaí to respond, despite Irishtown Garda station being located a short distance away.

“It was over before they got there,” said St Patrick’s Athletic fan Mick Keogh, who was hit with a flare during the violence.

The lack of dedicated public order officers for the game has also caused anger among gardaí. The lack of officers meant “none of the public order tactics to combat disturbances could be used”, one source said.

Flares and bottles

Mr Keogh said he had been going to St Patrick’s Athletic games since the 1960s and had “never seen anything like this”.

He said he was ordering a drink when he saw lit flares being thrown into the crowd outside the pub. “Then a bottle flew past my head and all hell broke loose.

“It was a group of about 30 with their faces covered and not wearing any colours. They came into the St Pat’s fans and just started kicking, punching, throwing bottles, throwing flares.”

Mr Keogh said the bottles were “raining” in on St Pat’s supporters. Video shows a lit flare hitting him in the back. “Luckily it just burned my jacket,” he said.

“I could see several people being randomly punched and kicked. Before that people were singing, people were having a good time.

“It was horrific. I have never seen violence like that at a game before.”

Mr Keogh said the perpetrators appeared to have planned the violence. “It was totally orchestrated, totally organised. They knew what they had to do.”

He said it took at least 10 minutes for the Garda to arrive, by which time the violence had stopped.

A Garda spokesman declined to comment on “operational matters” when asked about Public Order Unit numbers.

“The Public Order Unit was supported by other local units who were working and deployed around the Aviva Stadium as part of the pre-event preparations. All units responded when the incident occurred and order was quickly restored,” he said.

In a social media post, the Irishtown House thanked patrons “for keeping their integrity and not retaliating”.

The post added: “It’s unfortunate that a small number of people want to ruin it for everyone else.”

The final was attended by a record crowd of 37,126 people, the largest crowd at a game between League of Ireland clubs in more than 50 years. St Patrick’s Athletic won 4-3 on penalties.