More than 100,000 football fans from across Ireland to travel to Euros
MORE THAN 100,000 football fans from across Ireland are expected to travel to France for the European Championships.
Fans have been flying to France from Belfast City, Belfast International and Dublin airports for several days, with more expected to travel within the next few days.
The tournament began last night when hosts France played Romania in the opening game at the Stade de France.
Northern Ireland face Poland at the same stadium tomorrow.
The Republic of Ireland play their first game against Sweden, also in Stade de France, on Monday.
Irish fans will be carrying some unusual banners, including ones inspired by television personalities.
One of the Republic flags shows an image of Father Ted character Fr Todd Unctious saying "here we are now, all the lads".
A Facebook page, 'Northern Ireland flags and banners for Euro 2016' shows a group of fans with a banner of Coronation Street character Jim McDonald, played by Co Fermanagh actor Charles Lawson.
Another banner shows a photo of UTV personality Julian Simmons.
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers yesterday sent a video message of support to the Northern Ireland team.
"I'd like to wish the Northern Ireland team every success in the European championships. It's fantastic that they've qualified," she said.
"They've had a really good run of games recently and I know that they will have dedicated fans supporting them, really vocally, as they move into these championships."
Meanwhile, the tournament will be subject to tight security following last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Around 90,000 police, including eight PSNI officers and eight gardaí, have been drafted to patrol stadiums and fan zones.
The French government is struggling to end ongoing transport and rubbish collection strikes that threaten to affect the start of the tournament.
Three oil refineries remain on strike and the industrial action has targeted waste collection and processing centres.
Air France pilots are to take part in a four-day strike over their working conditions, starting today.
French environment minister, Ségolène Royal, has warned unions not to try to disrupt the championships.
"France’s pride is at stake. Let’s not harm France’s capacity to organise global events," she said.
The Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, urged Irish fans travelling to France to exercise caution.
He said fans should carry identification at all times and expect to be stopped and searched.
He was speaking as the Department of Foreign Affairs launched its 'Travelwise' app which allows Irish people travelling abroad to get security updates on their smartphone.
"All fans heading to Euro 2016 in France can download the App and “favourite” France, to get France-related security updates from my Department direct to their phone," he said.
"Mothers and fathers back in Ireland can do the same."