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Garda criticised over clashes with Glentoran fans

By Adrian Rutherford

Police in the Republic have been heavily criticised after trouble broke out at a Setanta Sports Cup match between Glentoran and Bohemians in Dublin.

Gardai made three arrests inside the ground and a further two before the game after rival fans clashed on Saturday night.

At one point Garda officers stopped a Glentoran fan from erecting a Northern Ireland flag inside the ground. Fighting then briefly broke out.

Last night officials at the east Belfast club accused gardai of being heavy-handed.

Club director Jim Rodgers said it was not the first occasion that Irish League fans had experienced trouble in the Republic.

“I would have to point the finger at the policing, which left a lot to be desired,” he said.

“We’ve seen it before with Linfield fans. Instead of operating a sensible policing policy, they go at it like a bull in a china shop, it doesn’t help community relations.

“The Garda Siochana need specialist training in how to handle crowds. We see it with trade union demonstrations down south, they seem to overreact.”

Mr Rodgers, who is also a Belfast City councillor, intends to pursue the matter with the gardai to avoid further problems.

“There are going to be more games — Linfield are going down to Dublin on Easter Saturday to play Bohemians — and I don’t want to see the police adopting similar tactics,” he added.

“There is absolutely no need for it, the fans of the clubs here know they’re representing Northern Ireland and the city of Belfast, and they don’t go out looking for trouble.”

Glentoran chairman Aubry Relph, who saw the trouble from the stand, agreed that gardai had not dealt with the situation well.

“From what I can gather the incident erupted when a fan put up a Northern Ireland flag and the guards were having none of it,” he said.

“One guard removed it and from then there were batons out and people were beaten.

“I’ve spoken to several officials and fans and they all tell me it was very heavy-handed.”

A Garda spokesman declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

Five men are due to appear in court in Dublin today.

The match finished in a 1-1 draw which meant Glentoran did not qualify for the semi-finals of the all-Ireland competition.

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