Saturday 21 October 2017

Only the gift shop tills are ringing out as locals steer clear of 'ghost town'

Greg Harkin Enniskillen

FOR a place hoping to get an economic boost from the G8, Enniskillen was like a ghost town.

Camera crews wandered aimlessly through the pretty streets of the Fermanagh county town looking for another angle.

But there were few shoppers – and even the police seemed to have melted away into the background as the summit at the Lough Erne Golf Resort came to an end.

There were some exceptions to the rule when it came to business – at the town's hairdressing salons and in the gift shops.

"We've been run off our feet for the past two days," said Karen Mitten, owner of the Fermanagh Cottage Industries craft and gift shop.

"We've had delegates in from all the G8 countries, but it's been mainly Russians and the Japanese.

"They've all wanted to take back a little piece of Ireland with them."

Yesterday afternoon, it was the turn of two Canadians, hurrying through the shop before their bus left for the airport.

Shamrock motifs, postcards and hand-made Irish jewellery were among the most popular items winging their way back to Tokyo, Moscow, Ottawa and Washington last night.

"We had loads of police officers from England and Scotland in as well who had been here on duty. Most hadn't been to Fermanagh before and said they couldn't wait to come back with their families on holiday," said Karen.

Just around the corner facing the town's cenotaph, Helen McGovern was also busy at her HeadQuarters salon.

"We didn't expect to be that busy but we were," said Helen.

"Basically, so many people were off work because of the G8, a lot of them decided to book a hair appointment."

The same couldn't be said, however, for the rest of the town after the biggest ever security operation in the North.

At Pat's Bar, Darragh McGovern said he hadn't seen lunchtime so quiet.

"None of our regulars are in," he said.

"People have just stayed at home or left the town for a couple of days. We're seeing the odd journalist and the odd tourist but that's it.

"It's been a bit of a disaster in the short term but hopefully we'll see a benefit down the line."

Charles Moore and his wife Linda have been Ireland's most protected farmers for the past six weeks.

Their 420 acres were all inside the security zone – and they had to get used to hundreds of police officers watching them as they worked.

"We got used to all the security," said 57-year-old Charles, "but it was a bit tighter in the last four or five days, so instead of taking 15 minutes to Enniskillen, it was taking well over an hour."

His wife Linda said the most interesting part of the few days was when a tractor tyre blew on a neighbouring farm, sending an explosive bang reverberating around the lough.

"I think the police were a bit spooked for a while," she said. "Apart from that, it was remarkably uneventful."

At the tiny camp used by anti-G8 protesters in the grounds of the Lakeland Forum leisure centre, Andrew Carnegie, his son Darren and the family dog Grace were spending their last night in Fermanagh.

"It's been an amazing experience," said 24-year-old Darren.

Holiday

"The people of Fermanagh have been so welcoming. And I wish the police everywhere were like the police here. They actually talk to you and respect your view.

"We'll definitely be back for a holiday at some stage, though we might have to pay for the camping the next time," he laughed.

One by one, the police armoured Land Rovers withdrew from Enniskillen last night and the town began to return to normality.

"It has been good," said a PSNI officer on duty at the camp. "These guys (the protesters) wouldn't harm a fly.

"To quote Van Morrison, I wish it could be like this all the time."

Irish Independent

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