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Strikes, terror threats and flooding - here's what Irish fans travelling to the Euros need to look out for

What’s the security situation? Are transport strikes still ongoing? Has the flooding receded?

France Protests Youth scuffle with riot police officers during a protest in Paris in April Source: AP/Press Association Images

THE 2016 UEFA EUROPEAN football championships will kick off this Friday in France, with the first of 51 matches being held.

The Republic of Ireland will have its first match on Monday – when we face off against Sweden.

It is estimated that about 75,000-85,000 Irish people will be travelling to France for the tournament, with Ireland’s group stages games spread across Paris, Bordeaux and Lille.

But France is currently weathering a series of political, social and environmental crises that have threatened to disrupt the festivities of the weeks ahead.

From threats of terrorism, to widespread flooding, to national strikes and social unrest, it seems that events are conspiring to to make sure the tournament proceeds less than smoothly.

But what exactly is going in France, what are Irish people being advised to do, and how likely is it to disrupt people’s time there?

1. The terrorist threat

Few will forget that just seven months ago Paris was subjected to a terrorist attack orchestrated by the so-called Islamic State.

130 people in total died in the attack, which targeted popular music venues and nightlife spots.

France has been under a State of Emergency ever since, with heightened security across the country – this will remain in place throughout the Euro 2016 tournament.

France Holiday Security A soldier patrols in front of Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris last Christmas. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Just yesterday, Ukrainian police reported that they had apprehended a far-right French extremist with a huge arsenal of weapons who was allegedly planning to attack the tournament.

About 90,000 French police officers will be involved in the policing operation of the Euros – at stadiums and “fan-zones” where people will gather to watch the games.

Expect very tight security and armed police close by at all games.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, French security have carried out close to 30 simulated attacks across the 10 venues where games will be taking place.

ESPN reports that French Sports Minister Patrick Kanner said that there would be one security agent for every 100 fans at the most high-risk times in fan zones.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, Irish foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan said that anyone travelling to France should be extra vigilant and prepared to follow the directions of the police closely.

“I would be advising people to exercise a high degree of caution as they prepare to travel to France,” he said.

Of course we have concerns that Europe continues to be a target for terrorism.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Fl Minister Flanagan discussing the Paris attacks at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels in November. Source: RollingNews.ie

Flanagan pointed people to the Department of Foreign Affairs website which contains specific, practical advice for anyone travelling to France in the next number of weeks.

Guidelines include:

  1. Always carry a passport or passport card
  2. Bring a European Health Insurance Card
  3. Expect random searches
  4. Always follow the orders of police and security officials
  5. Leave plenty of time to travel to places

Minister Flanagan advises anyone who finds themselves needing assistance to contact the Irish embassy in Paris.

There are also temporary consulates being set up for the duration of the Irish games in Lille and Bordeaux and extra staff being provided to the embassy.

People are being told to be extra cautious, keep their wits about them and follow all security guidelines closely.

2. Floods

On top of the heightened security in order to prevent against terrorist attacks, France has found itself in the midst of severe flooding over the past number of weeks, with a number of deaths reported and the River Seine rising to its highest point in over 30 years.

Sections of roads have been closed and there are major traffic restrictions in a number of areas.

download (2) View of the flooded banks of the river Seine in front of the Eiffel tower in Paris, Friday. Source: Christophe Ena/AP

Residents in flood-hit regions to the east and south of Paris have been picking through devastated homes, with insurers estimating damages nationwide of between €600 million and €2 billion.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is advising all Irish people travelling to France to keep an eye on the Vinci Autoroutes website in order to tell what travel restrictions are in place.

download (3) A family visits the flooded banks of the Seine river near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The latest forecast for Paris shows mostly sun for the next few days – but it is expected to rain again over the weekend and the following days.

3. The strikes

Compounding the heightened security and the weather is the fact that France is in the middle of a spate of serious industrial action.

Widespread transport strikes have been ongoing since last Tuesday – and have knocked out train services in much of the country.

On top of this, Air France pilots, in an internal conflict within the airline, are threatening to start a four-day strike this coming Saturday when the Euros are in full swing, and a major protest is planned in Paris on 14 June.

France Strikes A railway worker burns a flare and shouts slogans during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France, on Thursday. Source: Claude Paris/AP

In demonstrations that have occasionally turned violent, workers are protesting against a controversial new labour law – with State officials refusing to back down on its introduction.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is telling people to check ahead with their travel provider or airline for the latest updates.

Real-time info on rail traffic can be found at the  SNCF website, while information on the bus and metro systems can be found on the RATP website.

With the Irish games spread out across France, it would be wise to double-check ahead of time that all your methods of travel are up and running.

According to ESPN, Philippe Martinez, the firebrand leader of the CGT union said that the strikes weren’t about “blocking the Euros”.

“It’s not transport strikes which will obstruct the Euros – of course not,” he said.

If tomorrow the government says ‘we’ll discuss it’, there will no longer be a strike. It’s up to everyone to take responsibility.

France Strikes Source: AP/Press Association Images

Meanwhile, French president Francois Hollande has said that the angered transport workers should not have an impact on the tournament.

“No-one would understand if the trains or the planes… prevented the smooth transport… of spectators,” Hollande said.

Hollande also said that in spite of the apprehension of terrorism, fans should still enjoy the tournament.

“You should never be intimidated by the threat, even if it exists,” he told France Info

Full guidelines for Irish people travelling to the European Championships are available on the Department of Foreign Affairs website here

With reporting from AFP.

Read: Euro 2016: Arrested French extremist ‘had planned to attack multiple targets’

Read: How 3 former European Championship winners failed to qualify for Euro 2016

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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