We’re all friends now with the FA and FAI dreaming of a love-in in Dublin on Sunday but just two months ago the PSNI were worried of the potential for trouble outside an Under-19 women’s international between England and Northern Ireland at Solitude.
The PSNI were concerned about the proximity of republican and loyalist Easter demonstrations including several Apprentice Boys of Derry feeder parades in North Belfast.
It’s emerged that the IFA wrote to the PSNI in North Belfast at short notice advising of the UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship group 4 match.
An IFA official - whose name has been redacted from PSNI records released under the Freedom of Information legislation - wrote: “I wish to bring to your attention the England v Northern Ireland match at Cliftonville on Easter Monday.
“Both countries have played before at this venue without difficulty albeit not at such a sensitive time.
“Please let me know if you have any concern about this or any other fixture.”
The PSNI wrote back suggesting several republican and loyalist parades including a number of traditional Apprentice Boys demonstrations meant the situation was not ideal.
“The following events are happening on Monday, April 6, in the north Belfast area,” a PSNI officer pointed out.
“Multiple morning ABOD parades including Ardoyne and Clifton Street/Donegal Street scenarios.
“Two republican parades early afternoon New Lodge and Ardoyne areas.
“Return afternoon ABOD parades North Street/Peter’s Hill.
“Evening - Ligoniel Combine parade Twaddell area.
“Event and Resource Planning for these has been ongoing for the last three weeks or so.
“Have discussed this with the Area Commander T/C/Insp Gaving Kirkpatrick and [redacted] Ops Support dept.
“Potential issues around this competition and fixtures on April 6, could be reduced by swapping the NI-England fixture with the one shown for Norway - Switzerland to be played at Seaview the same day.
“If possible can local police be consulted at an earlier stage regarding potentially sensitive fixtures? Hope this suggestion isn’t too much of a problem,” the officer said.
The IFA wrote back stating: “Apologies, I was only made aware yesterday. They have used Cliftonville before and probably did not appreciate the significance of the Easter period.
“Have offered similar advice regarding the change of venue but will re-visit with your sensible comments.”