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Thursday 27 April 2017

Royal guest will slip off to visit top racehorses

Colossal security operation swings into action to counter dissidents

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

QUEEN Elizabeth II will slip away from her official itinerary for private encounters with some of the country's championship racehorses.

The Queen, a noted horsewoman, will take a detour from her official itinerary to meet Sea The Stars at the Aga Khan's Gilltown stud in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, on Thursday. She will visit Coolmore, the world's largest horse-breeding operation, in Fethard, Co Tipperary, the following day.

As a noted horse breeder and owner of a stable of winners, she is said to have a huge interest in Sea The Stars, who started life in the Curragh and became one of the Europe's greatest racehorses.

The Aga Khan has flown to Ireland with members of his family to meet the Queen and will host a a private lunch in her honour after a tour of the stud farm.

She will also dine at Coolmore, after touring the stud farm with racing magnate John Magnier and a list of notables from the horse-racing industry. The guest lists in both cases remain a closely guarded secret.

Roads in both villages will effectively be shut down while she visits the stud farms.

The security operation accompanying the royal visit is the biggest in garda history, with more than 8,000 gardai -- almost two-thirds of the force -- and 2,000 soldiers deployed to protect the royal party during her four day tour.

According to the Queen's official itinerary, she will take in Dublin's Garden of Remembrance and Memorial Park at Islandbridge; the Guinness brewery; Trinity College; Aras an Uachtarain; Croke Park and Dublin Castle.

She will travel to the National Stud in Kildare, before returning for a British Embassy party at the National Convention Centre.

The party will then set off for St Patrick's Rock in Cashel, followed by the English market and the Tyndall Institute in Cork. She will fly out of Cork Airport on Friday.

The threat from dissident republicans has meant that the security for the Queen's visit will be even more intense than for the visit of President Barack Obama.

More than 5,000 manholes and drains along the royal route have been sealed and thousands of lamp-posts secured. It is believed that the Queen will spend at least one night in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park, which has necessitated heavy security along the city quays.

This weekend, garda specialist units and the Defence Forces were clearly visible taking up positions along rooftops and on strategic points along the route.

The Queen will arrive in Ireland with her own security detail of up 40 to 50 royal-protection officers.

In addition, around 250 members of the gardai's special detective unit will be working around the clock, accompanying the Queen on every step of her journey. Their orders are to stay as close to her as possible.

More than 50 members of the elite, armed Emergency Response Unit will be the Queen's heavily armed outriders, trained in close protection and 'counter-sniper' capability.

A handful of top gardai and military personel have worked on nothing else but the royal visit for weeks.

While Commissioner Martin Callinan is the ultimate boss, Deputy Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan will head the operation, along with Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahony.

Sunday Independent

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