Sunday 26 May 2019

Obama's clan plan to avoid G8 protests

Michelle and her daughters to leave capital long before 'agitators' gather


America's First Lady will be gone from Dublin by the time "career agitators" gather in the city centre to protest her husband's presence at the G8 summit in Fermanagh.

Gardai are expecting anti-globalisation groups to assemble in Dublin city centre on Tuesday afternoon but by then Michelle Obama and daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 12, will have left the city for a visit to Glendalough.

Tomorrow Michelle and her daughters are attending a special performance of Riverdance in the Gaiety Theatre after visiting Trinity College Library to see records of President Barack Obama's Irish ancestry and the Book of Kells.

The first anti-G8 protest demonstration took place in Belfast yesterday.

The march, ahead of next week's G8 summit in Northern Ireland, left the city's Custom House square amid a major security presence.

About 1,500 protesters, advocating a variety of causes, braved torrential rain as they walked through the streets.

Anti-G8 protesters are also expected to travel to Dublin today after assembling in London to protest. Gardai are closely monitoring ports but do not expect major problems.

The main anti-globalisation protest for Dublin is expected at around 1pm on Tuesday near the Shelbourne Hotel where Michelle Obama and her daughters have their overnight stay before leaving for Wicklow on Tuesday morning. Mrs Obama leaves Dublin for Berlin on Tuesday evening.

Bad weather is likely to be the biggest headache for the summit organisers as strong north-east winds and heavy rain are expected early this week.

While there have been major violent clashes surrounding previous summits, the signs are that there will be little fuss over the visit of the world's major political leaders to Fermanagh for the two-day summit starting on Tuesday.

There was only one tent yesterday at the green beside the Lakeland Forum where Fermanagh District Council is facilitating the gathering of protesters with electricity points and rubbish skips. Busloads of protesters are leaving Dublin city centre on Tuesday morning for a march from Enniskillen towards the Lough Erne Resort, where the summit is taking place.

However, protesters will be kept miles back from the venue, which is surrounded by a four-mile long fence with lines of barbed-wire barriers in outlying farmland.

There is massive unseen security surrounding the visit of the leaders of the world's major economies. US warships are arriving off Irish coastal waters, mainly off Donegal, but one ship is expected in the Irish Sea. Russian warships are also likely to be off-shore as part of President Putin's security detail.

The main concern has been over a possible attack by dissident republicans.

Gardai have been keeping close watch on a dissident republican group which is suspected of being responsible for planting a milk churn bomb in Phoenix Park close to Farmleigh House where Queen Elizabeth stayed two years ago. After she departed, it was found on a small island in the pond opposite the entrance to Farmleigh. No group claimed responsibility but gardai suspect it was planted by a group of former Provisional IRA figures opposed to the peace process.

Intense surveillance of the dissidents has been under way for months in the run-up to the G8 summit, as they are known to have support in the Border area. Gardai are mounting a major operation today surrounding the All-Ireland match between Cavan and Fermanagh at Brewster Park in Enniskillen in case the dissidents attempt to move a bomb across the Border.

Yesterday, the Garda Press Office issued advice to supporters travelling north for the match to leave early and be prepared for delays.

In March, a dissident group terming itself Oglaigh na hEireann tried to drive a large bomb in a van to the Lough Erne Resort, where the two-day summit begins on Tuesday. However, it was abandoned miles away due to the increased level of security in Fermanagh.

The Garda Special Branch and the British intelligence service, MI5, which has a substantial presence in Northern Ireland, have both scored significant successes against the dissidents in the past six months in Dublin, Belfast and Derry. However, there are concerns about a lack of intelligence about the dissident groups along the Border, who are suspected of wanting to create some form of incident during the G8.

The PSNI is being supplemented by 3,500 police from other British constabularies, and 900 extra gardai are being drafted into the Border areas from today onwards.

Irish Independent

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