From The Vaults

18 May 2021
Remembering the 1996 Peace International

18 May 1996: Vincent Coutello of ireland on the charge during the Peace Game against the Barbarians at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, IReland. The Barbarians won the match by 70-38. Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason/Allsport

On the 18th May 1996 Lansdowne Road hosted a special fixture between Ireland and the Barbarians called the Peace International. The game had been organised by former Irish players Trevor Ringland and Hugo MacNeill as a means of expressing the wish of the rugby community for peace on the island of Ireland.

It came during the fourth decade of the Northern Ireland conflict, more commonly known as the Troubles. Whilst all-party peace talks had begun in 1996, the year also saw significant conflict in both Northern Ireland and on the British mainland with the Docklands and Manchester bombings. The Irish national rugby team came into being in 1875 and had remained united through civil war, partition and the Troubles.

A full-strength Ireland side contested the match against a Barbarians side that included some of the finest rugby players in the world, such as Australia's David Campese, Phillipe Sella of France, Francois Pienaar of South Africa and England's Rory Underwood.

The visitors eventually won a high scoring contest by 70-38 in front of 30,000 spectators. In the programme notes Ireland and British and Irish Lions great Tony O'Reilly refers to the 'overwhelming desire in Ireland and beyond for peace in our country'.

Such sentiments were widely felt and would infuse the Northern Ireland Peace Process which, two years later, resulted in the Good Friday Agreement.

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