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Soccer fans struggle amid French transport strikes disruption

Published 16/06/2016

Eoin Campbell, president of Lyon's French-Irish Association, who has warned the transport system taking fans to the stadium for Northern Ireland's game could be overloaded
Eoin Campbell, president of Lyon's French-Irish Association, who has warned the transport system taking fans to the stadium for Northern Ireland's game could be overloaded

Trade unionists are attempting to cause maximum disruption during Euro 2016, a leading member of the Irish diaspora has said.

To many Northern Ireland fans, France's transport system has seemed on the verge of collapse.

But it has stopped short of a complete standstill despite opposition to government labour reforms spreading.

Eoin Campbell, president of Lyon's French-Irish Association, said over the last few weeks the workers' strikes had been a major concern.

"It is very rare that things come to a complete standstill," he said.

"What they do is they reduce the number of Metro carriages, they will close for an hour at this time of day, an hour at that time of day, a line won't function and it will be replaced with buses.

"It is disruption rather than stopping things but the sheer number of people in town at the minute causing that sort of disruption could cause awful trouble."

Refineries were blocked so fuel trucks could not deliver, and panic-buying in the southern city led to half-hour queues at 11pm.

Railway workers attached to unions, some with links to the French Communist Party, stopped some services, air traffic controllers have taken action in recent days, and bus services have been scrapped.

At Lyon's Part-Dieu railway station young people proffered a petition supporting the action.

Northern Ireland fans, some delayed for hours by the strike, were bemused.

The battleground is over a French principle - a job for life - which has existed for generations but which opponents argue hampers business productivity.

The government is trying to reform or undermine the system, depending on one's point of view, amid a state of emergency linked to Islamic State (IS) attacks while hosting a major football tournament.

East Belfast father and son Jim and Kirk Spence said they had suffered three cancelled trains and had to travel to Lyon by bus.

Mr Campbell said people in the Rhone's major city had been confused about whether they would be able to travel and if the Metro underground would function.

But he added that citizens of one of France's largest cities were getting on with life despite the disruption around them.

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