Security risk at sporting festivals: Prepare to defeat the terrorists

THE challenge faced by gardaí trying to bring Dublin’s murderous gang war under control pales into insignificance compared to the daunting task facing French and European police preparing for the European football championships which begin in 15 days. 

Brazilian security agencies, and their counterparts at airports all around the world, may face an even greater challenge when this summer’s Olympics open in Rio de Janeiro in just over 70 days.

These great celebrations of sport and humanity offer terrorists of all hues the kind of stage, and the prospect of universal publicity, they crave. That the great ideas of inclusion and co-operative internationalism, so hated by Islamist bigots, characterise these events is another reason to anticipate another attack from beyond the fringes of reason. The threat of an outrage at either festival is very real and every measure possible will be taken to prevent one.

This reality is underlined by the fact that Ireland’s Euro 2016 campaign begins at the Stade de France in Paris against Sweden on Monday, June 13. Last Saturday’s cup final at that venue, between PSG and Marseille, was something pretty close to a full dress rehearsal for the Paris authorities but major shortcomings were uncovered. Police and private security personnel at the Stade de France struggled to control the crowd of almost 80,000 as new access points to the stadium were used. Flares were let off inside the ground despite rigorous searches intended to ensure that those items were not smuggled in. It must be a worry that the security force so recently exposed to the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan massacres seemed less than fully prepared but, as the Dublin turf war shows, those determined to wreak havoc are not easily deterred except by the ultimate deterrent.

Many measures, such as alcohol bans, may drain some colour from the spectacle but they seem unavoidable. Tens of thousands of Irish fans, many without tickets, are expected to travel and even if they survive the kind of rip-off prices routinely charged at these events — in Ireland too! — they are unlikely to face anything more threatening than the risk of sunburn or a hangover. But they, and the 2.5m fans expected to go to games and the 7m expected to visit France for the tournament , should recognise the scale of the challenge faced by the French security agencies — especially as any measures they might take, even if they seem excessive, are intended to protect them. It would be wise and no more than practical to behave responsibly and co-operate with security agencies, especially as the consequences of not doing so are unlikely to make the happiest holiday memories.

It is a victory of sorts for terrorists that these things must be considered, but the scale of that victory can be contained. Some of the terrorists whose murderous, anti-democratic, 30-year campaign used the thinly veiled threat — tiocfaidh ár lá — to inspire fear were defeated because the community cover essential to terrorists disappeared.

That can happen again if the majority of fans behave responsibly and, especially if those who might be described as new Europeans, realise where their obligations really lie.

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