Game armbands mark loyalist murders
A black armband tribute at the Ireland-Italy match in memory of the victims of the Loughinisland massacre will help relatives cope better with the anniversary, a lawyer has said.
Families of the six men shot dead will gather in the Heights bar in the Co Down village - the scene of the attack 18 years ago on Monday - to watch the game and the special commemoration.
Niall Murphy, solicitor for the families, said the gesture will be emotional and poignant.
"The families would wish to convey to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the players their deep sense of gratitude for the honour that will be bestowed upon them, that the memories of their loved ones will be remembered on such a massive scale," he said.
"Independent of the result, the magnitude of their generosity of support will live with them forever. Anniversaries are always difficult times but this gesture by the FAI has made this anniversary a little bit more manageable."
Republic captain Robbie Keane said it is right that the team wears the black armbands, a rare occurrence at an international game.
Loughinisland victims Adrian Rogan, 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 52, Daniel McCreanor, 59, Patrick O'Hare, 35, Eamon Byrne, 39, and 87-year-old Barney Greene, one of the oldest people killed in the Northern Ireland Troubles, were gunned down by loyalist killers as they watched the Republic play Italy in World Cup USA 94.
Football chiefs in Uefa gave the go-ahead for the commemoration after an approach by the FAI on behalf of the victims' families.
Last year the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman found insufficient evidence of collusion between police and the loyalist gang in connection with the atrocity and subsequent investigation, but he did identify police failings in the disposal of the getaway car and the loss of some evidence.
John Delaney, FAI chief executive, said last month: "What happened in Loughinisland in 1994 was an awful tragedy and deeply moving for all football fans. I would like to thank Uefa for assisting us in commemorating this atrocity and take the opportunity to remember all those who lost their lives in the Troubles."