900 gardai at Border ready to face down G8 protesters
GARDAI have been drafted into the border counties from all regions, except Dublin, for today's launch of Operation Shield, which has been set up to help secure the G8 economic summit at Lough Erne next week.
Nine hundred officers are being deployed across four counties, from Cavan to Donegal, and include a large number who have been undergoing special public-order training.
Senior officers said last night that they had not received any intelligence reports of planned major demonstrations on this side of the Border but had made contingency plans.
The close contacts between "career" protesters here and in the UK were highlighted again this week after British police officers clashed with demonstrators in central London.
One of those identified as taking part in the demonstration in London is a well-known activist from Finglas in west Dublin. He had also taken part in the Occupy Dame Street protest, as well as being part of the demonstrations outside the former headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank and the Rossport Shell-to-Sea group.
An Englishman who took part in the Dame Street occupation also featured in the London demonstration and one of those arrested was an Irishman.
Gardai expect that some of those involved in London will make their way here at the weekend for protests on either side of the Border.
Eight permanent checkpoints will be put in place along the Border and will remain there until the summit ends on Tuesday evening, while these will be supported by mobile road checks.
If required, additional gardai will be sent northwards from Dublin but at the moment it is intended they should remain in the capital, which will be visited by the US first lady Michelle Obama, and her two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
The Obamas will arrive here at lunchtime on Monday and stay in the Shelbourne Hotel before flying back to Belfast by midday on Tuesday. The US Secret Service has not agreed to a final programme of events for their stay but it is known that they will be taken to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells while a social event, such as a Riverdance show, is also planned.
Meanwhile, the North will be undertaking its biggest-ever security operation with dozens of roads closed.
Belfast will be virtually 'locked down' when US President Barack Obama visits on Monday. Police warned commuters to avoid the city on Monday morning if possible.
Protesters who manage to get past a 10km perimeter fence around the Lough Erne Golf Resort will face two lines of razor wire, armed police and trained police dogs.
Yesterday, the PSNI moved a water cannon into place at the shore road leading to the resort where they believe militant protesters will attempt to gather.
Hundreds of extra prison cells have been set aside for the expected arrests with special sittings of courts being arranged.
More than 3,600 British police officers have started to arrive in the North to back-up the PSNI.
One campaign group is holding a family-friendly concert in Belfast tomorrow with more than 15,000 expected to attend the gig in the Botanic gardens.
The 'Enough Food For Everyone' campaign, run by Trocaire and Oxfam, aims to raise awareness of poverty in the third world.
Organiser Dan Scofield said: "This is a positive campaign aimed at highlighting hunger in many countries throughout the world and people can have their voices heard without resorting to violence."