Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016 must go ahead because extremists can't win: Jim Boyce

By Claire McNeilly

Former Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce has said the 2016 European Finals must go ahead in France next summer despite the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Northern Ireland man is no stranger to terrorism, having been badly injured in an IRA car bomb attack in 1971.

He was also chairman of north Belfast football club Cliftonville during the worst days of the Troubles.

Islamic State militants targeted restaurants, a football stadium and a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall during a night of horror last Friday, killing 129 people and injuring 352.

In an emotional interview Boyce, who is now retired and looking forward to watching Northern Ireland and the Republic at the Euro 2016 tournament, said it was time for resolve in the face of barbarity.

"The one thing I have always said and the one thing I will continue to say is that terrorism must not win," he added.

"My thoughts, of course, and the thoughts of everybody I'm sure go out to all of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack in Paris. It was terrible.

"Personally, though, I think Uefa are right to say that the European Finals should continue.

"They can't take it away from France because, if they start doing that, then where does it stop?"

The Stade de France was subject to a failed attempt by suicide bombers last Friday after an attacker was stopped at the entrance to the ground before he detonated the device.

French Sports Minister Patrick Kanner has confirmed the Euro 2016 tournament in June - for which Northern Ireland and the Republic have both qualified - will go ahead.

"The Euros will be staged in conditions of maximum security, strengthened as a result of the events we have just lived through," he said.

"There is no question of cancelling this great and popular festival."

Mr Boyce said it was "very important to continue with football as normal despite the terrible things that have happened".

"Hopefully security will be tightened up, and with Northern Ireland qualifying for our first ever European Finals, everybody here is looking forward to it," he told The Herald newspaper in Scotland.

"I was at a game on Saturday and I spoke to many people, and there's nobody here saying that they wouldn't go to France because of what happened.

"I haven't heard one person saying that. In fact, they are all looking forward to going. What has happened has happened - nobody can do anything about that, unfortunately. But I always believe that good will overcome evil."

Mr Boyce, who was awarded an OBE this year, added that his experience here has taught him about terrorism first-hand.

"I know from living in Northern Ireland that terrorist attacks are very, very hard to stop, especially so when you don't know who these people are and when they carry them out in the way they carried them out in France," Mr Boyce said.

"I myself suffered in the Troubles as I was in a car bomb explosion on my second wedding anniversary."

"I walked into a building and they drove a car in the back and the next thing I knew I was lying in hospital with my wife standing beside me.

"I was one of the lucky ones.

"My leg was broken in three places. I had some other injuries, but it never changed me.

"I always completely condemned any form of bigotry or sectarianism."

The former Fifa vice-president added: "The people who did it, well, I don't know why these terrorists do what they do.

"I don't know what gets into their bloody minds for want of a better word."

Belfast Telegraph


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