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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Security chiefs switch focus to next VIP visitor

Tom Brady Security Editor

GARDAI switched their security focus last night to combating any potential threats against US President Barack Obama, minutes after the royal flight carrying Queen Elizabeth had taken off from Cork Airport to bring her home after a very successful visit.

Special Branch detectives from the unit's Middle Eastern desk are combining with military intelligence to combat the dangers posed by international terror groups.

A dozen suspects, who are known to be linked to associates of terrorist organisations based elsewhere, have been under close surveillance since the visit was first considered.

And a further group of about 40 sympathisers are also being monitored physically and by electronic surveillance equipment as the gardai and the Army build up an intelligence dossier on the targeted figures.

An advance team of US Secret Service agents, security advisers, administrative staff, and event management and publicity personnel flew into Dublin last week to prepare for the visit.

The team, which is reckoned to total more than 200, includes a heavily armed unit, which will be ready to help gardai to counteract any attempt on Mr Obama's life.

A number of contingency plans have been drawn up by the US advisers, who are making the key decisions on transport and accommodation issues.

These are expected to change again over the weekend before a final announcement is made on Monday morning.

Alternative arrangements for the president's overnight stay centre on the residence of US Ambassador Dan Rooney in the Phoenix Park; and the Merrion Hotel, which is located across the road from the Dail.

The Americans are also undecided so far on whether Mr Obama and his entourage will travel by road or by helicopter from Dublin Airport to the Park on Monday morning.

After his arrival here, he will go directly to Aras an Uachtarain to meet President Mary McAleese.

He will then join Taoiseach Enda Kenny and members of the Cabinet at Farmleigh before moving to the US embassy for lunch.

The president will be taken by helicopter to Moneygall, Co Offaly, and land in the local GAA pitch.

He will spend about an hour there in the home village of his ancestors and is expected to be offered a pint in the local pub.

After Moneygall, he will return by helicopter to Dublin for an appearance at a huge outdoor concert at College Green. The concert is expected to get under way shortly after 3pm while Mr Obama is due on stage before 5.30pm.

College Green will be sealed off for several hours in advance of the concert, with only one access route open.

US agents will back up gardai, who are screening concert-goers using magnometers, which are similar to airport-style walk-through scanning machines.

The Americans have flown over a large number of machines to help with the mammoth scanning task.

Around 8,000 gardai will take part in the 24-hour security operation, as well as a total of up to 1,800 Defence Forces personnel from the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

Military specialist search teams will also be on duty over the weekend while aerial surveillance equipment will be based at the airport and other key locations.

Close-in protection for Mr Obama will be carried out by officers from the Emergency Response Unit while the Army Ranger Wing will be on call at a minute's notice to act as a quick reaction force.

Irish Independent

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