Queen visit a 'nightmare' for security, gardai claim
Dissidents planning protests to disrupt three-day royal itinerary
Published 08/05/2011 | 05:00
Dissident republicans are planning to break into the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin city centre the night before Queen Elizabeth arrives in Dublin. It is among a series of protests and actions to try to disrupt her three-day Irish itinerary.
A 24-hour guard has also been placed on the Victoria Monument at Dun Laoghaire Harbour by gardai after threats to blow it up. The monument, built to commemorate the 1900 visit of Queen Victoria, was badly damaged by a bomb during the 1981 Maze Prison hunger strikes, and restored only in 2003.
Garda sources say there is now something approaching panic among middle- and senior-ranking officers given responsibility for protecting the queen. Several experienced gardai last week referred to the royal visit itinerary as "a nightmare".
Compared to the queen's visit, US President Barack Obama's visit, which begins on May 23, is described as being relatively straightforward in logistical and security terms. Gardai are content the risk from Islamist extremists here, even in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden, is minimal. There may be some protests by leftist groups but these are usually peaceful.
Calls are already going out for mobilisation of protest and other forms of opposition to the royal visit. Last week's edition of the Republican Sinn Fein newspaper, Saoirse, called for protest at the Garden of Remembrance on the opening day of the visit and at all the subsequent 11 venues -- 10 of which have been published in precise detail in the itinerary published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Buckingham Palace two weeks ago.
The Republican Sinn Fein weekly paper referred to the "Queen of England" and the visit as being "a parade of pomp and imperialism which is being foisted on the people by the same political elite responsible for the economic collapse".
It adds: "Our message will be the same in Dublin, Kildare, Cashel and Cork -- the head of the British state will never be welcome in any part of Ireland as long as that state continues to partition and occupy Ireland."
The Garda Special Branch is being worked into the ground as it attempts to assess the broader threat from dissident supporters, sources say. Their fear is that hordes of young men -- of the same type who carried out the "Love Ulster" riot in 2006 -- will try a re-run of the events, rioting and looting during the queen's two days in Dublin city centre.
The small and splintered dissident terrorist groups -- the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA and a variety of other micro groups -- could cause serious disruption by placing bombs or hoaxes along the queen's quite extensive route which criss-crosses Dublin before travelling to Cork and Cashel, gardai say.
One senior garda source said the extensive travel arrangements in the visit are the result of "naive" thinking. He said that those responsible had been so closely involved in the "peace process" in Northern Ireland that they had been blinded to the threat from republican extremists and the much larger hooligan elements likely to cause trouble during the visit.
Dissidents are under close surveillance. Two senior dissidents from Co Louth were watched as they walked around Trinity College with a camcorder two weeks ago. The queen is due to visit the college to see the Book of Kells after the Garden of Remembrance ceremony. Another Dublin Real IRA figure, who is heavily involved in the drugs trade, sparked some alarm when he went to Dublin Airport and spent three hours apparently sizing both terminals up.
He may have been unaware the queen is flying into Baldonnel Aerodrome and out from Cork Airport.