Thousands of Ulster rugby fans travelling to Dublin day after exit face disruption due to border protests
Thousands of rugby fans from Northern Ireland heading to an Ulster match against Leinster in Dublin the day after Brexit face widespread disruption to travel as activists hold protests at key border crossing points, a security expert has warned.
There is also a real danger that the protests could turn violent, Allan Jones, security advisor and director of Transformational Policing Associates (TPA), said.
Border Communities Against Brexit has called for demonstrations on March 30 at key crossing points in counties Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Londonderry.
Mr Jones, former head of the PSNI public order training department, said that "there is no doubt some disruption will take place".
"Especially when you consider that at least 12,500 Ulster rugby fans will be heading to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the quarter-final of the Heineken Champions Cup that day," he said. "Those who intend to cross the border on March 30, for business or for pleasure, by train or road, need to understand what to expect."
However, the security expert believes that although organised community and political pressure groups set out with the best intentions to express their feelings peacefully, very often these events can be 'hijacked' by more sinister forces with different intentions and codes of behaviour.
"While many protest groups begin with the best intentions, they often draw the attention of extremists who either see this as an opportunity to 'piggyback' their views onto mainstream agenda or a way to justify their illegal activities," Mr Jones said.
"Key individuals can encourage violence to have the images caught on camera. Poorly trained police officers are just as susceptible to an overreaction if not prepared. As the spectrum of groups that join the protest increases, it is not beyond the balance of probabilities that one or more may be willing to take criminal action to achieve their aims."