Saturday 25 November 2017

Press pack left sucking it up with gin lollies as high security keeps paparazzi out of the picture

Photographers outside Ashford Castle Photo: PA News
Photographers outside Ashford Castle Photo: PA News
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Back in the day, the only defence needed to keep unwanted intruders and pesky paparazzi out of celebrity weddings was a clipboard, a guest list and a couple of burly-looking security guards.

At most, an innovative journalist had been known to break through the VIP line of defence if he was brazen enough to dress as a waiter - as Pierce Brosnan found out to his considerable annoyance.

But in the age of social media, paparazzi drones and big money exclusives, today's stars aren't taking chances.

And Rory McIlroy was no exception.

Every journalist who has ever rolled out the line "celebrities can't turn their privacy on and off like a tap when they choose" found out this weekend that well, they can actually, if money is no object.

Worth €300m, McIlroy went to extreme measures to ensure Ashford Castle was in lockdown. Private helicopters chauffeured in big name guests, Bono's famed security man Brian Murphy was drafted in to manage the ring of steel surrounding the castle and all staff were asked to sign confidentiality agreements and hand in their mobile phones last Tuesday if they wanted to work at the event.

Even the very existence of the wedding was denied by employees who wheeled out hot chocolate, candy and gin lollies to appease an increasingly anxious media pack who tried in vain to make small talk and garner information.

One reporter, from McIlroy's home town of Hollywood, knows the family well but even he wasn't given any special treatment.

On the other side of the gates, security was equally stringent. Either the happy couple had the world's most obliging guests or - as part of the invitation - they had been politely asked to refrain from posting pictures and comments about the event.

On Friday night two innovative photographers were said to have shared a pint with a Mayo fisherman who agreed to take them out on the water to view Ashford Castle's private boathouse where the bride and groom were widely reported to be staying.

But hotel security had that well covered. The couple had stayed in the presidential Reagan suite inside the hotel.

Perhaps the most revealing insight into security came when uniformed anti-drone defenders were spotted near the castle.

The men work for a company that specialises in combating hi-tech camera drones - establishing electronic 'no fly' zones above government buildings, palaces, football stadia and super-yachts.

The paparazzi didn't stand a chance. It would be up to the new Mr and Mrs McIlroy to choose when and how to release a photograph of their special moment - possibly later today on Rory's Twitter account.

And fans who had trekked from as far away as Newry for a glimpse of the couple said they were "dead right".

It turns out privacy can be bought - if only for one day.

Sunday Independent

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