Sunday 18 February 2018

Unprecedented security plan in place for Obama and queen

Lise Hand in Washington and Shane Hickey

THE largest security operation in the history of the State is being prepared in advance of the back-to-back visits of Britain's Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama.

A massive and costly week-long policing and diplomatic plan is being put together for May, when the two figureheads will visit within days of each other.

Queen Elizabeth will be in the country from Tuesday, May 17 to Friday, May 20.

President Obama is expected to arrive that weekend and will most likely be in Ireland from Sunday, May 22 to Tuesday, May 24. He will then depart to go on a state visit to London.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore revealed the planned dates of the two visits yesterday when he met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

Although the schedule is still being worked out, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said President Obama would attend a number of official events in Dublin, as well as visiting his ancestral home in Moneygall, Co Offaly.

Mr Kenny said: "No country in the world could have the situation where you have the queen of England and the president of the United States visit inside a week."

Senior gardai are believed to be engaged in high-level talks with their counterparts in the UK and the United States in advance of the visits.

A large-scale security operation will be in place for the arrival of President Obama, who will travel along with his extensive secret-service detail.

Giant US Air Force C-17 transport aircraft will land armoured limousines for the presidential cavalcade. Blackhawk helicopters are likely to be used to shuttle him around and even F-15 Eagle fighter jets based in the UK will be on standby as Ireland has no interceptor jets to control our airspace.

Around 700 staff and secret-service agents will accompany the president, armed with an arsenal ranging from automatic weapons to Stinger surface-to-air missiles.

The elite Emergency Response Unit (ERU) will be used for protection, although secret-service personnel will secure the inner cordon around President Obama. Garda leave is expected to be cancelled for the two visits.

The Defence Forces will secure the airports used by Mr Obama. Specialist search teams will also be used to clear buildings of any potential threat and naval-service ships will be positioned off Dublin.

Such has been the level of security surrounding US presidential visits in the past that mobile-phone communications have been knocked out for periods of time.

No-fly zones are also likely to be in place around specific airports and residences where dignitaries are staying.

In the coming weeks, particular garda focus will centre around dissident-republican groups who are planning street demonstrations during the queen's visit.

About 40 Islamic extremists living in Ireland will be under surveillance for both visits.

It will be the first visit of a British monarch in a century. The queen's grandfather, King George V, visited 100 years ago when Ireland was part of the UK. He spent six days in Dublin in 1911.

Garda anti-terrorist officers are currently drafting contingency plans for the queen's security.

Further plans will also be prepared for the security of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and their entourage.


Officers from the Metropolitan Police in London provide a royal-protection squad, which travels with the monarch at all times.

Close protection is expected to be provided by garda special units, including the ERU, while the Army Ranger Wing using snipers -- some in helicopters with .5 heavy-calibre sniper rifles able to kill at over a mile -- will be deployed for close protection of residences where she will stay, most likely Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.

The queen is expected to land at Baldonnel airbase, while no-fly zones will be in effect over Farmleigh and the airbase will be patrolled by armed Air Corps PC-9 planes.

The Army Air Defence Regiment, with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns, will be used to protect airports used by the VIP visitors.

Exact details of the massive security operations are being kept under tight control for fear amongst officials that details will leak out to subversive groups or individuals.

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