Saturday 27 December 2014

No-fly zone over Dublin Castle for EU Presidency

DON LAVERY

Published 23/12/2012 | 05:00

The airspace around Dublin Castle will be a no-fly zone – with surface-to-air missiles and patrols by armed aircraft – to protect more than 15,000 delegates during Ireland's €60m Presidency of the European Union.

But with the Government committed to keeping the cost of the EU Presidency down, security costs are also expected to be managed carefully. They will be well below the €36m cost of the visits by President Obama and Queen Elizabeth.

Thousands of gardai and soldiers will be involved in the security operation – over a six-month period which begins on January 1 – to protect the delegates and ministers due to attend the wide range of events, including an Ecofin meeting.

Another 15,000 people will also attend, including other officials and journalists. Most of the meetings will be held in Dublin Castle as the Government decided to cut costs by holding the events in State-owned venues which will also include Farmleigh and Kilmainham Hospital.

However, airspace will be restricted over Dublin Castle during the Presidency; senior figures will be transported from Dublin and Baldonnell airports by car, with most delegates travelling by bus.

There will be close radar surveillance of the airspace by the Defence Forces using Giraffe and Flycatcher radars. Armed Air Corps PC-9 planes will provide a combat air patrol orbiting 10 miles out from Dublin Castle. Similar aircraft intercepted a helicopter which had inadvertently strayed into the restricted zone during the Queen's visit.

If, as expected, delegations land at Baldonnell airbase or Dublin Airport, both venues and Dublin Castle could be protected by RBS-70 surface-to-air missiles as well as Bofors anti-aircraft guns.

Gardai are expected to ask the Defence Forces – which will have a number of key units on alert – to provide several assets in the overall security plan. These will include bomb disposal and specialist search teams, a Navy ship anchored off Dublin and a quick reaction force from the Army Ranger wing in the event of a terrorist attack.

During the visits by the Queen and President Obama, around 20 heavily armed Rangers, including airborne snipers, were on standby in three helicopters and accompanied the VIP visitors on their travels.

Thousands of gardai will also be involved over the six-month presidency and Emergency Response Unit officers will provide close-in protection for VIPs.

The threat to Ireland from Islamic terrorists is seen as low, but Army G-2 Intelligence officers and gardai will also be keeping a close eye on those with suspected links. The main threat is seen as coming from dissident IRA terrorists.

An EU summit of leaders for the Presidency will be held in Brussels and not Dublin.

European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, meanwhile, has said the low-key Presidency will deliver on concrete issues rather than symbols. Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said securing an agreement on legacy bank debt will form a key part of the Government's agenda; and the main motto for the Presidency will be stability, jobs and growth.

Sunday Independent

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