Sunday 23 July 2017

Security operation for queen and Obama visits to cost €30m

Tom Brady and Edel Kennedy

THE cost of the massive security operation to protect Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama when they visit later this month is estimated to reach almost €30m -- the biggest saturation policing operation ever mounted here.

Finance chiefs have agreed to allocate extra funding after intense discussions with senior officials from the Departments of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Defence. However, the total will not be known until the visits are over and costs such as overtime are collated.

"At this stage it is not possible to say specifically how much expenditure will be involved and the full costs will not be known until after the visits have taken place," Justice Minister Alan Shatter told the Irish Independent.

"While the financial requirements will undoubtedly be significant, the safety of the queen and the president will be the paramount considerations involved for the gardai and the State," he added.

Senior security sources estimated last night that close to 7,500 people will be involved in the security plan, including gardai, military personnel and civilian employees.

Contingency planning for the visits has been under discussion for more than a year, it emerged.

As well as the equipment available to the gardai and the military, it is understood the Government has negotiated the loan of a range of highly sophisticated technology from other countries to boost our defences against a terrorist attack.

Security sources would not comment on the type of technology being drafted in, but some of it will be deployed in surveillance and monitoring tasks.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the racing community at Punchestown at the weekend that Ireland was unique in attracting two global VIPs to our shores in such a short timeframe. He said it presented a rare opportunity for this country to show what could be achieved here, and to portray ourselves worldwide in a positive light.

Senior officials said a similar attitude was adopted in determining the extent of the security operation.

Suspicions

Surveillance on known dissident republican activists and supporters and sympathisers of groups affiliated to the al-Qa'ida network will be stepped up even further from today, and anyone arousing suspicions will be arrested.

Passenger records on all planes and boats entering or leaving the country from today until early June will be closely examined to help the security forces keep watch on potential activists.

Gardai will also actively police street protests and demonstrations and steer them away from routes to be used by the VIPs.

A robust crackdown on any groups breaking the law will be launched.

The security arrangements are expected to result in considerable traffic disruption in the areas affected by the two itineraries. Streets will be closed off, where necessary, in advance of their arrival.

Although the arrangements for the queen's visit have been completed, apart from a few minor adjustments, the planning for Mr Obama's trip is still under consideration.

US Secret Service agents are taking account of the enhanced terrorist risks after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the SAS will arrive in Dublin this weekend to examine key sites which the queen will visit during her four-day trip, according to British media reports.

The SAS will reportedly be part of her security team during her visit, which begins on May 17.

Irish Independent

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