THE Mayor of Paris has decided to hand out not one but two medals to Irish football fans following their Euro 2016 exploits.
On Wednesday, we revealed Anne Hidalgo had written to Ireland president Michael D Higgins to inform him of her decision to hand Republic of Ireland fans a ‘Medal of the City’.
Now, the Major of Paris has signalled her intention to do likewise for those from Northern Ireland, who also lit up the tournament with good behaviour, humour and a boisterous vocal support for their team.
“The supporters from Ireland and Northern Ireland distinguished themselves by their exemplary attitude, fair play and good mood,” she said, ahead of a reception due to take place later this week.
It is believed Northern Ireland took around 20,000 fans to the tournament in France while the Republic attracted in the region of 100,000.
Neal Anderson - Chairman of London Northern Ireland's Supporters' Club - welcomed the recognition from the Mayor of Paris and took the opportunity to highlight the fresh bond supporters from both sides can now share.
"For Northern Ireland fans this award is particularly touching after we lost Archie Rainey in Lyon and Darren Rodgers in Nice," he told The Irish Post. "Indeed, the tributes by the 'Boys in Green' did not go unnoticed, so it's only right that both sets of Irish fans, north and south, should be awarded this prestigious honour by the City of Paris.
"I saw one tweet from a French fan that said all the Irish fans had 'lifted the gloom that had covered Paris for the last 6 months'. That's extremely poignant.
"Real Northern Ireland fans are purely about fun and supporting 'our wee country'. We were there to enjoy ourselves no matter what.
"After the game in Lyon, while queuing for the tram from the ground back to the city centre, I myself was standing next to a couple of lads one of whom was in a Republic top, the other in a Monaghan GAA top. Full respect to them for wearing their colours and coming to support us. They were surrounded by Northern Ireland fans, and not a bad word was spoken.
"Same in Paris, where both sets of fans mingled seamlessly. Yes, a wee bit of banter, as you'd expect, but nothing more. [It was] Great to see, and how it should be.
"It's why both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland fans together deserve this tremendous and unexpected honour from the Mayor of Paris."