Paris mayor thanks Irish fans for ‘songs’ and ‘sportsmanship’

Republic and North groups given medals for ‘exemplary behaviour’ during Euro 2016

 Republic of Ireland supporter Jamie Monaghan, from Togher, Co Louth, and Northern Ireland supporter Jim Spratt who were selected to accept the prestigious ‘Médaille de la Ville de Paris’ from the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, which has been awarded to Irish fans for their ‘exemplary behaviour’ at Euro 2016. Photograph:  Gwendoline le Goff/Uefa via Sportsfile.

Republic of Ireland supporter Jamie Monaghan, from Togher, Co Louth, and Northern Ireland supporter Jim Spratt who were selected to accept the prestigious ‘Médaille de la Ville de Paris’ from the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, which has been awarded to Irish fans for their ‘exemplary behaviour’ at Euro 2016. Photograph: Gwendoline le Goff/Uefa via Sportsfile.

 

The fan zone under the Eiffel Tower was tumultuous in the hour before the semi-final between France and Germany.

Within the relative calm of the Paris pavilion, Mayor Anne Hidalgo designated two winners: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, for the “exemplary behaviour and sportsmanship” of their supporters before both teams were eliminated in the second round of the Euro 2016 championship.

Flanked by representatives of the Republic and the UK and Northern Ireland, Ms Hidalgo delivered her speech in halting English.

“Thanks to Irish fans, we’ve seen extraordinary things,” the mayor said, referring to videos of Irish fans that went viral. “We’ve seen love songs in the streets! We’ve seen baby songs in the metro! We’ve seen policemen singing with the Green Army!”

Ms Hidalgo showered souvenirs on Jamie Monaghan, the severely disabled 17-year-old chosen by the Football Association of Ireland to represent Irish supporters, and Jim Spratt, a fish and chip shop owner from Saintfield, Co Down, appointed by his federation to represent them.

Confused

The French seemed confused by the presence of two Irish teams in the tournament, all the more so because Martin Michael O’Neill was the Republic’s manager, while Michael Martin O’Neill was Northern Ireland’s manager. Paris Match reported that Ms Hidalgo wrote to “the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, and his Prime Minister, Arlene Foster”.

It didn’t matter, said Carol O’Leary Sakka from Dublin, a volunteer in the fan zone. “They were all Irish once they had the green T-shirt on.”

Ambassador Geraldine Byrne-Nason called it “a unique moment for Ireland in France” and recalled that Ireland sent 100,000 fans “to raise the spirits of a country that’s had a tough year”.

Jamie Monaghan had travelled from Co Louth to receive the award, accompanied by his father Philip. Asked what the award meant to his family, Philip replied “huge”.

Jamie suffers from a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 9 mosaicism and requires constant care. He looked quizzically at the gold medal bearing the seal of Paris, with its ship on the waves and the words “Fluctuat nec mergitur,” Latin for “Tossed but not sunk.”

The motto has been quoted often since jihadist attacks killed 148 people in the capital last year. “In the disturbing times we live in, the acts of kindness and positivity shown by the Irish fans serve as a model and a sign of hope to all,” Ms Hidalgo said.

A ritual exchange of presents followed: T-shirts, souvenir Eiffel Towers, footballs and flags. Joe McKenna of the Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters Clubs gave Ms Hidalgo a jersey signed by the Irish team. The Green Ducks struck up an Irish tune, and Jamie Monaghan tapped his feet to the music.