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ITALIA   25-12-1956   Bangor City (Belfast) IRLANDA   Anni 37

Remembering Belfast man Patrick

Radcliffe who died in Heysel tragedy

by Adrian Rutherford

Patrick Radcliffe should never have been at Heysel. He wasn't a Liverpool fan. Nor did he follow Juventus, the great italian side also contesting the 1985 European Cup final. Indeed, he had little interest in football at all. But a twist of fate meant the 37-year-old from Belfast was among the 58,000 crowd on a night of tragedy for the sport. Today marks the 30th anniversary of the disaster in which 39 fans died after a wall at the crumbling stadium in Brussels collapsed. The horror unfolded as Juventus supporters attempted to escape a violent charge by Liverpool fans. Most of the dead were italians. The only Briton killed was Mr Radcliffe. Originally from east Belfast, he had been working in Brussels as an archivist with the then European Economic Community. His twin brother George still lives in Belfast. "Patrick was my twin brother, he was my best friend," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. "The final on May 29, 1985 should have been a great spectacle, bringing together two powerhouses of the football world in that era. Liverpool, the reigning European champions, were aiming for a fifth triumph. Facing them were the Turin side, one of the most famous names in italian football, boasting stars such as Michel Platini and Marco Tardelli. The venue was the ageing Heysel stadium in the north west of the Belgian capital.Mr Radcliffe had been working in the city for several years. Educated at Campbell College in Belfast and Oxford University, he worked briefly for the Public Record Office in Northern Ireland. After marrying an English woman he lived for a period in Carlisle, where he was a senior archivist with Cumbria County Council. He left in 1980 to work in Brussels, where he was compiling a history of the EEC. The couple lived in Hoeliaart, a suburb of Brussels. According to his brother, Patrick had little interest in football. "He wasn't a football fan.

He had gone with a Dutch friend to the match, but he wasn't much of a fan," added George. "He was working in the European Economic Community, as it then was, in the historical archive. "He lived in Brussels, and the final was being played there. "His Dutch friend wanted to go to the match and it was a bit of an event, so he ended up going to it too. "This was a very different era for football. Played in sub-standard stadiums and with an endemic hooligan problem, it had little of the prestige or glamour of modern times. When the 1985 FA Cup quarter-final between Millwall and Luton Town was marred by large-scale violence, the Government responded by setting up a "war cabinet" to tackle the problem. However, the carnage at Heysel was on a scale not seen before.Violence erupted about an hour before kick-off after a drink-fuelled rampage by Liverpool supporters. A retaining wall separating the opposing fans collapsed as the italian club's fans tried to escape the stampede.The 39 dead comprised 32 italians, four Belgians, two French and Mr Radcliffe. He was not involved in hooliganism of any type. "It was just one of those things - the wrong place at the wrong time," George added. He had seen the breaking news reports of the violence at Heysel that evening, but had no reason to suspect his brother would be caught up in the chaos. It was only later, when he received a call from Patrick's wife, that he learnt his brother was among the dead. "It was a shock - quite a blow," he said. "I remember ringing to speak to him, but actually I spoke to his wife. She said he was at the match, which surprised me. Then she rang me back later on. I was aware there had been some trouble at the game. I think I saw it on the news, but I never thought Patrick would be there. "It was a complete shock. "Mr Radcliffe later visited the stadium, which was rebuilt for Euro 2000, which Belgium co-hosted with The Netherlands.He still keeps in touch with Dennis, his brother's companion at Heysel. "I still exchange Christmas cards with him," he added.This year marks the 30th anniversary of the disaster, a landmark made all the more poignant by the fact Juventus are back in the final this year.For Mr Radcliffe, it is likely to stir memories of that terrible night. "Yes - it is important," he said. "I remember the 25th anniversary, for example. It reminds you of it all. It brings back the memories of what happened". Source: © 29 May 2015 Photo: ©

HEYSEL Ireland’s untold stories

by Michael Foley

Thirty years on, four men reflect on the tragedy that changed their lives, writes Michael Foley.

The only Briton killed in last night’s football disaster was an Ulsterman. With the death toll at 38, with more than 350 people injured, police in the Belgian capital of Brussels today named the man as 37 year-old Patrick Radcliffe. A native of Belfast, Mr Radcliffe worked as an archivist with the EEC in Brussels. Belfast Telegraph, May 30, 1985. It began with a phone call from Belfast to Brussels. The European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus was on television but George Radcliffe didn’t need to consider his timing. His brother was never interested in football. Patrick and George had grown up in east Belfast, a pair of academically-minded twins destined for college in Oxford and good jobs. George would lecture in accounting at Queen’s University. Patrick worked in Brussels as an archivist for the European Commission. He married Sarah and settled in Hoeliaart, a suburb of Brussels. But tonight, Patrick wasn’t home. George didn’t know Patrick had gone to the game with a Dutch friend from work. He didn’t know that English fans had rioted and forced thousands of supporters into a crush in one part of the Heysel stadium. He didn’t know a wall had collapsed under the pressure. He didn’t know dozens of people already lay dead on the terraces. He didn’t know his brother was lost somewhere among them. Sarah had already called the police to report him missing. "She didn’t know what had happened," says Radcliffe. He bought an airline ticket that night and headed for Brussels. Since Ireland had joined the EEC the Irish population in Brussels had been swollen by diplomats and officials. A GAA club had been formed. Most of its members also played for a local soccer team, FC Irlande.

A new team kit had arrived that month with an offer to provide tickets for the European Cup final. The club took 26 tickets for a neutral section at the corner of the ground, Pen Z. It was a night that drew people from everywhere. Ronan Harbison met Gerry O’Sullivan, a 70-year-old man from Mallow, whose daughter worked in Brussels. He fell into conversation with a Wolves fan. "I thought I’d come seeing as I’ll probably never see Wolves play Juventus," he said. They passed through the turnstiles together into Pen Z without noticing any trouble. "The crush started," says Harbison, "but you expected a bit of crushing on the terraces at that time. "Then stones started coming in. They were taking off crumbling pieces of concrete. The English fella with me got hit on the head. The concrete landed on my shoulder. There was nowhere else for it to go. I got some of his blood on me. As the crush developed, something had to give. Then the wall broke. People fell like water flowing out of a bottle". Liam Breslin from Mullingar was further up the terrace, wedged in the crowd with two friends. The mood there was different. Before Breslin had even entered the stadium another Irish friend with his son decided to go home. As the crush got tighter one of Breslin’s friends forced his way to the wall, climbed up and braved the steep drop on the other side. "I saw people around me getting hit by rocks and going down. The crowd was so tight they were trampled on. We were like sardines. I kept looking up to avoid getting hit. There was some fine, stout italian fellas who had been having great fun. Once they went down they never came back up". When the wall collapsed, the surge of people tumbled towards the bottom of the terrace. Breslin held his feet. When it stopped, he looked around him. "I noticed heaps around the place.


They were a grey colour. They were heaps of bodies. To get down to the pitch I had to walk over these bodies". Ciaran Fanning had travelled to the game with his father, Pat, and an Egyptian schoolfriend, Mohib. In a way, it was a farewell to Brussels. His father was among Ireland’s permanent EEC representation. Ciaran was 17 and finishing school before heading home that summer. Football was their shared passion. Brussels had been their gateway to some great games. They also knew Heysel and how to find the best spots: enter the terrace at the top where the crowd was always heaviest, edge down to the bottom by the wall and swing back up to the space down front. This time, they were swallowed by a swamp of people. Ciaran and Mohib were quickly separated from Pat and tumbled out on the edge of the crush, looking across at the vast no-man’s land created by the rioters. "Missiles were being thrown across: stones, flagpoles," says Fanning. "Below us we then noticed loads of belongings, bits of clothes, bags. There were a few people just sitting down in these empty areas with their heads in their hands". Ciaran and Mohib stood on the edge of chaos. The crush was behind them. Across the empty terrace, through the line of hooligans firing missiles, they could see space at the Liverpool end. Their Liverpool scarves were their passport. "We ran across," says Fanning. "We got beyond these guys, they weren’t people you wanted to come across.

We moved through the crowd and found some space". As the Belgian police finally formed a line to hem in the Liverpool support, Fanning looked back at the empty terrace they had just crossed and spotted his father walking up the steps, looking for his son. Ciaran tried to break the police line to reach him, but the police refused to let him through. He had to stay and watch the game. Back in Pen Z, Ronan Harbison was imprisoned in the devastation caused by the crush. He stopped by a young boy on the ground. His face was black and blue. "If he wasn’t dead," he says, "he was very close to it". He turned to the rioters and threw his hands in the air. "Stop !," Harbison shouted. "There’s people dying here !"* "F*** off you italian bastard !," replied one. "They were in a frenzy," says Breslin. Harbison looked around and saw an italian man cradling a woman in his arms, screaming for help. Harbison took her hand to find a pulse. He checked her neck. Nothing. He reached inside her denim jacket to feel for a heartbeat. "Batte ?," asked the italian. "Beating ?" Harbison laid her on the ground and administered the kiss of life. Inside a few moments, she exploded in a fit of coughing, throwing up mouthfuls of blood all over Harbison. "The last time I saw them they were hugging each other," he says. "There was a man there in his 70s and someone who’d seen me with the girl asked if I could do the same for him, but he was too far gone". Another man lay howling in pain with broken ribs. Harbison and another man snapped the belt on his trousers to provide some relief. Gerry O’Sullivan, the pensioner from Mallow, scrambled out of the crush without his shoes and socks. Harbison saw someone with a broken leg carried away on crash barrier, a young policeman in riot gear wandering aimlessly down the steps through the dead. He saw Juventus fans turning on a BBC reporter and the blackened faces of the crushed and dying. He saw a policeman crying uncontrollably. They had come too late. It was all too late.


Liam Breslin was down on the pitch looking up at the terrace, still transfixed by the piles of bodies. He wandered into the main stand. By kick-off time he found himself in the VIP area as the game played itself out. Afterwards he went back to the Green Anchovy, an Irish pub in Brussels. Some of his friends were there. More weren’t found safe till the morning. Ronan Harbison was carried away to hospital covered in other people’s blood. Pat Fanning had gone back to his office. Ciaran was still missing. He thought about the panic he could start if he called home now. He decided to wait until the end of the game before going home. Ciaran would surely be back by then. But he wasn’t. Somewhere in the middle of Brussels, Ciaran Fanning was being herded along with the Liverpool supporters, trying to break away and catch a tram home. When he did, he had a choice of two trams to two different stations. As he got off at the other end, his mother was waiting for him. "She hugged me, she couldn’t believe I was fine. I knew dad hadn’t been in the stadium so I assumed he was fine. But I couldn’t believe so many people had died. When I realised what had actually gone on and what dad and mam had been through, that was very upsetting. But there was nothing I could have done". By the time George Radcliffe reached Brussels on Thursday morning, he already knew. Patrick was lying in a military hospital near Heysel. Sarah had identified him. George stayed behind at their house. "It was very disturbing," he says. "Very upsetting. But what could you do ?". The newspapers in Belfast carried the story that morning. George described him as a "true European". As the family grieved, Kevin Sheehy, Radcliffe’s sister’s boyfriend, spoke to reporters. "We were shocked that Patrick was at the match at all, because he had little or no interest. It’s important people know that Patrick was not involved in what went on. We’re all completely stunned and shattered".

On June 10, Barry McGuigan stood on a stage in Belfast city centre shaking his world featherweight title belt as thousands came together on the warring streets of Belfast for the first time in years. In Downpatrick a congregation at the local church were remembering Patrick Radcliffe. Six months later George was visited by Denis, his brother’s friend who brought him to Heysel. "He talked a bit about it," says Radcliffe. "He was thrown forward and Patrick wasn’t. That’s how he explained it". Liam Breslin lives in Brussels and still savours sport’s biggest days, but never shook from his memory the grey dust that lingered over the bodies of the dead. Ronan Harbison suffered nightmares for a while, but they passed in time. Once, on a trip to Pairc Ui Chaoimh a few years ago for a hurling game between Cork and Tipperary, he felt the same fear as Heysel again as the crowds choked the tunnel beneath the main stand after the game. The same chill ran through Ciaran Fanning once at Lansdowne Road at a rugby international when the crush at the Havelock Square end got too much. Back in Belfast George still exchanges Christmas cards with Denis, his brother’s companion at Heysel. They didn’t look for reasons or answers to explain. "I certainly didn’t blame," says Radcliffe. "Patrick was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Football doesn’t interest me. It’s not something I wanted to get into. Obviously Patrick and I were very close but I’ve managed to go on. That’s how it goes. Death just happens". Source: © 17 May 2015 Photos: © GETTY IMAGES © (Not for Commercial Use) © ©

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