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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Irish fans demand parade
Workers erect concert stage in Phoenix Park
At least 50,000 are expected at the concert
Fans of the Republic of Ireland football team are piling pressure on the government to allow their heroes to parade through Dublin city centre in an open-top bus.

The squad are due to be flown into Dublin by helicopter from the airport on their return from South Korea on Tuesday.

Open Quote
There is no good reason why this celebration cannot be held in the city centre
Close Quote
Jimmy Deenihan
opposition sport spokesman
However, they will touch down not in the centre but the city's biggest green area, Phoenix Park, after police objected.

Police have cited difficulties caused during the 1990 World Cup when hundreds of thousands of supporters celebrated in the centre.

The Irish team's progress through the 2002 World Cup ended on Sunday in a close-run match with Spain, which was decided by a penalty shoot-out.

President Mary McAleese, who is due to greet the team at her residence in Phoenix Park, said the whole nation was proud of the "great experience" the team had delivered over the past few weeks.

Tens of thousands of supporters are preparing to greet manager Mick McCarthy's squad, but many are unhappy with the park as a venue for celebrations.

Fans inundated radio phone-in programmes on Monday demanding greater exposure be given to the team.

'Why not?'

The sport spokesman for the Fine Gael parliamentary opposition party, Jimmy Deenihan, joined the calls for a city centre street party - already backed by the players themselves and the Football Association of Ireland.

"A city centre event would create a much better atmosphere and allow supporters to see their heroes close-up," said Mr Deenihan.

Irish coach Mick McCarthy
Mick McCarthy and his team want a city centre celebration
"Many other events have been held over the last few years without any hassle and there is no good reason why this celebration cannot be held in the city centre."

The Fine Gael spokesman called on Minister for Sport John O'Donoghue to intervene to reverse the police decision.

"The decision to have the party in Phoenix Park was taken after consultations with all the relevant authorities," Police Superintendent John Farrelly said.

"We cannot take the risk that somebody might be injured."

Superintendent Farrelly said that the police lacked the resources to control mass crowds in the centre of Dublin.

The sport minister, who watched Ireland's final match in South Korea, paid tribute to the team's "pride and passion and commitment and dedication".

He said the government would be spending about 780,000 euros ($739,000) on celebrations for the squad.


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