Thursday, 2 July 2015

Setting the record straight on Northern Ireland firework incident

Northern Ireland’s last game in Group F of the Euro 2016 qualifying tournament divided opinion among fans.  Some viewed the 0-0 home draw as a missed opportunity, particularly because it allowed Hungary to move within 2 points of the Green and White Army.  Others thought that a point against the group leaders was creditable.

More worrying than the result, was an incident where a firework was thrown from the crowd in the National Stadium, hitting a photographer, who had to be treated for burns.  Home fans were convinced that the missile had come from the Romanian section, but the photographer and most journalists blamed Northern Ireland supporters initially .

Very quickly a video emerged proving that it had been thrown from the seats occupied by travelling spectators.  Not that this evidence affected a series of articles quoting Darren Kidd, the photographer, and repeating the allegation that a Northern Irish hand had launched the firework. 

Blink and you miss it, but a Romanian supporter clearly throws an object in the direction of the photographer - heads of supporters behind him follow it's path prior to the bang.http://youtu.be/4GyxN_VeK18
Posted by Our Wee Country on Monday, 15 June 2015

The Belfast Telegraph corrected its initial reports fairly quickly and even mentioned the matter in an editorial, but for two weeks the BBC kept a report on its website, repeating without context the unfounded claim from Mr Kidd.

Clearly, a firework being thrown from a football crowd is newsworthy at the time and details which emerge later become progressively less newsworthy, as the event recedes into the past.

The photographer made an allegation that a home fan had been responsible quickly and took almost three weeks to issue a retraction on Twitter.  Understandably, his correcting tweet has received little or no media coverage.    

While few sets of football supporters are saints, Northern Ireland fans have no history of setting off fireworks.  It’s worthwhile setting the record straight.  The missile came from a troublemaker among the (largely excellent) Romanian crowd and the victim of the incident has accepted these facts without reservation. 

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