Spotlight falls on G8 summit
Small businesses in Northern Ireland have held a mini-summit in Enniskillen to thrash out the practicalities for Fermanagh companies operating during the G8 summit in June.
Representatives of the small business sector met a high-powered delegation of political and security personnel to seek assurances about the summit's impact.
The meeting – arranged by the Federation of Small Businesses –asked Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster MLA, Downing Street officials and senior PSNI officers about the potential impact of security restrictions during the event and the legacy for the local economy.
A wide range of FSB members attended, including the hospitality sector, catering, retail, farming and transport companies. Business owners asked if the improved mobile phone and broadband provision for the summit would be retained afterwards and sought assurances on the duration of extra security measures before, during and after the event, road closures, and the raising of Fermanagh's tourism profile both now and in the future.
Firms were told that surrounding areas like Tyrone will be marketed to the delegations and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is using 'destination managers' to ensure all tourism opportunities are promoted to the G8 contingent and accompanying media.
Local businesses were told they could liaise with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to flag up opportunities, which will be forwarded to the appropriate representatives of the G8 delegation.
With regard to traffic restrictions, people travelling into Enniskillen were urged to car share or use public transport if possible.
The audience was warned that road closures will be in place from early June but local traffic, including feed delivery and milk collections for farmers, will be facilitated as far as possible.
It was advised that deliveries of time-critical goods should be made where possible in quieter hours and extra PSNI resources will ensure the smooth flow of traffic and any issues regarding disruption should be brought to their attention locally.
There will also be an air restriction zone, plus water restrictions on Lough Erne.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the summit is a great opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland on the world stage.
"The staging of the event in Fermanagh will be a catalyst in the ongoing development of the region as a place to invest in, do business with and of course to visit," she said.
"I am determined that we not only capitalise on the opportunities that exist for local traders but that we create a lasting legacy for the region."
The FSB's Policy Chairman, Wilfred Mitchell added that the G8 will present challenges and opportunities alike.
"We wanted to give our members the opportunity to come and put questions directly to a panel of key figures in the G8's organisation," he said.
"Following this event, we will be sharing the information by putting out a dedicated G8 Questions Answered to all of our Western Branch members, as well as posting information on our website.
"We welcome the fact that the G8 is coming to Northern Ireland, but we want to ensure that the potential benefits for local businesses don't evaporate once the world leaders leave town.
"We also want to ensure that a major event focusing on the world economy doesn't have a negative impact on the local economy.
"If we can build on the positive effects of the event, Northern Ireland and, particularly Fermanagh, could reap rewards; but the G8 legacy needs to be managed properly if that is to happen."
PSNI Superintendent Alywin Barton told the meeting that the PSNI had been working closely with many partner agencies and local businesses in order to mitigate the potential for disruption to the community in the run-up to and during the G8 Summit in June.