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Sunday 18 March 2018

Capital put on security lockdown for seven hours

8,000 gardai backed by 200 US agents

A man walks his dog near Dun Laoghaire as an Irish Naval vessel
patrols in Dublin Bay
A man walks his dog near Dun Laoghaire as an Irish Naval vessel patrols in Dublin Bay
Workers assemble a screen of bullet-proof glass in College Green

Tom Brady and Don Lavery

DUBLIN city centre was on lockdown today as US President Barack Obama arrived for his first visit to the country.

Rolling street closures were being implemented for up to seven hours and paralysed traffic as the centre was sealed off to protect Mr Obama.

It is hoped some streets will be opened up again as others are shut down.

But commuters and travellers were coping with serious disruption. Worst affected areas will be around College Green and Dame Street as well as the north and south quays.

An open-air rally and concert on College Green is expected to attract crowds of up to 30,000 and this will create a security headache for the gardai and US Secret Service agents.


Airport-style scanning machines, known as magnometers, will be used to search concertgoers and will be manned by uniformed gardai with members of the Special Branch and US agents on guard close by.

Scanning will get under way from around 2pm with the concert due to begin an hour later.

Mr Obama is expected to make a 20-minute appearance on stage some time after 5pm.

It is now thought likely Mr Obama will stay overnight at the Merrion Hotel, across the street from Government Buildings, although the use of the US Ambassador Dan Rooney's residence in the Phoenix Park has not been ruled out.

Eight thousand gardai are on duty during his stay, backed up by 1,800 members of the Defence Forces and around 200 US agents and officials.

Gardai and troops will work side by side at Dublin Airport as Air Force One arrives this morning and the troops will also provide back-up in Farmleigh and remain on duty at Baldonnel as part of a contingency plan.

Meanwhile, fighter jets based in the UK will be on high alert as Mr Obama's plane touches down in Dublin.

A billion-dollar security and logistics bubble will surround the president as he begins his 24-hour visit on his first foreign trip since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Every possible security threat, from sniper attacks to suicide bombers and surface-to-air missile strikes has been examined. Even the unlikely scenario of a hijacked airliner crashing into his temporary Dublin home has been considered.

Mr Obama's $325m (€229m) Air Force One is a flying White House which allows him to communicate and control US forces worldwide. It is one of only two such aircraft costing $180,000 (€127,000) an hour to run.

Every location the president will visit will be surrounded by armoured vehicles, surface-to-air missiles, counter sniper teams, heavily armed Garda ERU and Secret Service agents, with an air exclusion zone patrolled by armed Air Corps PC-9 aircraft.

A huge logistics train has been in operation over the last 72 hours, with giant USAF cargo aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster and the C-5 Galaxy landing with Mr Obama's bulletproof Cadillac limo, 'The Beast'. Four US Army Chinook helicopters and C-12 Huron embassy support aircraft have also landed.

Officially known as Cadillac One, the heavily armoured 'Beast' does eight miles to the gallon, has an independent oxygen system, an Obama blood bank in the boot, with steel- rimmed tyres to allow it to drive out of an ambush.


Two Whitehawk helicopters, a VIP derivative of the Blackhawk, have also been spotted flying over Government Buildings and one has landed in Moneygall.

One aircraft will be used as Marine One to take the president to Co Offaly. The second will be used as a decoy in case of a missile attack.

Vehicles for the president's motorcade -- which can consist of up to 45 vehicles, including a stand-by limo, armoured SUVs for his Secret Service escort and an ambulance -- have also been delivered to Dublin.

Agents will bring their own arsenal, which will include Sig 229 pistols, M-4 carbines and FN P-90 submachineguns -- as used in the 'Stargate' TV series.

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