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Terror threat Mary Robinson told to skip Northern Ireland World Cup play-off amid rising sectarian violence

State papers reveal Irish President was warned of Windsor Park terror threat by security chiefs

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Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

Security chiefs advised Irish President Mary Robinson not to go to a key World Cup play-off between the Republic and Northern Ireland in Belfast in 1993 amid an alarming upsurge in sectarian violence.

Irish state papers reveal that she wanted to go to the match at Windsor Park but subsequently did not travel for the historic fixture.

One document showed that a Department of Foreign Affairs official noted the British government was not asking her to stay away from the clash, but would be happier if she did, given tensions at the time.

The match, on November 17, 1993, was crucial to the Republic's hopes of qualifying for their second World Cup finals under Jack Charlton.

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RIVALS: The Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams line up before their clash at Windsor Park, Belfast, in 1993

RIVALS: The Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams line up before their clash at Windsor Park, Belfast, in 1993

RIVALS: The Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams line up before their clash at Windsor Park, Belfast, in 1993

 

The Republic did qualify for the US finals after an Alan McLoughlin strike equalised an earlier effort for Northern Ireland by Jimmy Quinn as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

President Robinson hailed the fixture as "a triumph for sport on this island".

The match took place just weeks after two of the most brutal sectarian atrocities of the Troubles.

An IRA bomb had killed 10 people at Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road on October 23 - with the IRA later claiming they had mounted the attack in a bid to wipe out the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association.

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Alan McLoughlin scores for the Republic of Ireland in the Windsor Park cauldron of 1993. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Alan McLoughlin scores for the Republic of Ireland in the Windsor Park cauldron of 1993. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Alan McLoughlin scores for the Republic of Ireland in the Windsor Park cauldron of 1993. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

 

In retaliation, loyalist paramilitaries attacked a pub in Greysteel, Co Derry, on October 30, shooting dead eight people who had gathered for a Halloween party.

Security officials said they were ­worried about getting the President into and out of the grounds.

"In the context of recent events there could possibly be a reaction to her presence from the attendance," one British security official noted.

Greatest concern focused on the fact that Windsor Park was in a staunchly loyalist area.

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Irish officials were privately briefed that there was concern the RUC would be stretched by another massive security operation.

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