Football

The Charming Men Blamed For The Lansdowne Road Riot 20 Years Ago...

The Charming Men Blamed For The Lansdowne Road Riot 20 Years Ago...

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So twenty years went by like that. Twenty years since Nazi salutes shot up in the air in the Upper West Stand and missiles (fashioned out the timber in the stand) rained down on those in the Lower West Stand.

This World in Action programme from the late 90s uncovered the group blamed for orchestrating the rioting.

They door-stepped Charlie Sargent, the slightly gormless individual (his mouth is almost permanently open) who was the brains behind Combat 18. During the course of the interview, Sargent made several valiant attempts to attack the camera lens and threatened his interviewer with the promise of a bullet in the head.

Sargent founded Combat 18 in 1992. The number 18 was used because of the numerical position of Adolf Hitler's initials on the alphabet. Initially they operated as a kind of stewarding/security group for the BNP but split from them the following year because of their hostility to electoral politics. The BNP's philosophy also left them cold. They weren't nationalists, they were racialists.

Football hooligans, political sophisticates that they are, were receptive to this group's 'message'. Neo-Nazi literature was distributed at English football grounds and was found among the debris at Lansdowne Road the following morning.

Their links to the UDA were well known. When asked on World in Action whether he agreed with the killing of Catholics C18/UDA operative Eddie Whicker decided it would be imprudent to answer in either the positive or the negative.

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While they evinced a generalised hatred for anyone who wasn't white, British, hetrosexual and indeed as right wing as they were, they focused much of their energy on anti-Irish campaigns, attacking Kilburn pubs and pro-Irish demonstrations with some vigour. Close links were fostered in particular with the branch of the UDA run by Johnny Adair.

They asserted the invasion of Dublin as their greatest 'success'. Whether they organised it or not, Combat 18 claimed the 'credit' for it.

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Naturally, there was a split. A grouping within the organisation split off from Sargent. They were apparently alienated by his overly peaceable tendencies.

They embarked on a letter bombing campaign with Olympic swimmer Sharon Davies being one of the recipients. She is married former sprinter Derek Redmond.

After Charlie Sargent was convicted in 1998 of murdering an associate, the original grouping largely disappeared from view.

However, they retain a presence in Northern Ireland. In 2009, Bobby Sands grave was daubed with C18 grafitti.

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THE FALLOUT

There were fears in the wake of the riot that football would not be coming home in Euro 96. On BBC, Jimmy Hill castigated the rioters but insisted that the English police's long experience of dealing with hooliganism meant it was the ideal place for the tournament.

He did mention in passing that some (not necessarily him) might object to the heavy-handed treatment the Garda riot police meted out to the hooligans.

This potential misgiving, it's fair to say, was not the subject of too much hand-wringing in Ireland.

Rarely have the Gardai, usually unpopular in online forums, been as lauded as they have been in the youtube comments sections underneath videos of riot. There were probably queues of teenagers lined up outside Templemore looking for admission the following morning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR34GDMmLPA

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This Channel 4 report is especially comprehensive (although it does appear to refer to Dame Street as 'a side street' but we'll forgive that).

Full marks to FAI Chief Executuve Sean Connolly for use of the word 'Boo Boo'.

Eamon Dunphy (on a monitor but not looking into the camera) was accused of talking waffle on Sky News when he appeared to link the violence in Lansdowne Road to the FA's slackness about punishing indiscipline on the pitch. He referenced Eric Cantona's recent travails.

See also: Where Are They Now? Ireland Team v England, 1995

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Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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