Heavy bombing raids by the Irish Air Corps caused dozens of civilian casualties and widespread collateral damage in Paris last night, after negotiations between France and Ireland finally broke down in the wake of the Thierry Henry handball incident.
Yesterday’s last-ditch peace talks, mediated by the UN, were unsuccessful in preventing the situation — which began with a request by the FAI for a replay of the controversial France Vs. Ireland play-off — from escalating into full-scale war.
Matters entered the political arena when Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen demanded that FIFA order a replay, and promised to raise the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. France’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon responded that the Irish government should not interfere in footballing decisions, and that anyway Cowen would’ve done the same thing in that situation, and that if it was an Irish player who’d handballed he wouldn’t be crying like a big girl about it.
The Taoiseach’s retort was an unprintable stream of abuse, followed by a demand that he and Fillon “have it out, man to man”. Immediate, high-level talks were called to resolve the dispute, but only served to worsen the situation.
UN intermediary Olof Thorstadt, who was airlifted out of Paris only minutes before the bombing began, described the peace talks as having been “doomed from the start”.
“It was hopeless really, because we just couldn’t stop [Cowen and Fillon] fighting,” he said, shaking his head sadly. “It would seem like we were making progress, and then Fillon would make some snide remark about looking forward to his holiday in South Africa next year, and Cowen would just go for him — literally launch himself across the room, you know? If Sarkozy had been there he might have been able to calm things down, but he was on a fact-finding tour of the Far East, trying to find people shorter than him, and had left Fillon in charge.”
“He’s going to be really p***ed off when he gets back,” Thorstadt added.
Negotiations between the two countries reportedly reached crisis point when the UN’s position as impartial arbitrator was called into question. Thorstadt failed to notice Fillon illegally using his hand to smack Cowen round the head: when the Irish delegates’ request for a replay of the peace talks was refused, war was the only option.
When interviewed earlier today, French captain Thierry Henry expressed remorse for having brought about this state of affairs, then spoiled it by suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t worth getting that worked up about. In what is seen as the first step towards an end to the conflict, the French government have agreed to hand over Henry to an Irish firing squad, who will execute the former Arsenal player in the name of Fair Play.