Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

G8 protest rally could clash with Obama visit

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arriving at Dublin Airport during their visit to Ireland in 2011
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arriving at Dublin Airport during their visit to Ireland in 2011

There are concerns that President Obama's arrival in Belfast ahead of the G8 Summit will coincide with a major anti-capitalist rally -- creating a huge security headache for the police.

Northern Ireland will host the talks between the leaders of the world's leading nations on June 17 and 18 at Lough Erne golf resort in Co Fermanagh.

But the US president is set to jet in to Belfast beforehand. White House officials said on Friday Mr Obama would use his first visit to the city to "engage with the people of Northern Ireland".

However, a variety of radical, environmental and socialist groups have earmarked Belfast for a series of events in the days ahead of the summit, dubbed the G8 Counter Summit.

A public march and rally is scheduled to take place in the city centre on June 15, with organisers calling on people to attend and send a message to G8 leaders.

The security services have launched a mammoth operation to ensure anti-capitalist protesters do not hijack the Belfast event, with the safety of Mr Obama their number one priority. Thousands of extra police are being brought in from forces in the rest of the UK to deal with any potential protests and security threat.

The rally will include the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, as well as other trades unions and councils. Campaigning rights groups, including Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth, are also expected to attend. The groups have also announced a Fairer World Festival of talks, debates, concerts, film screenings and exhibitions which will take place in the run-up to and during the G8 summit itself.

They issued a statement, entitled 'G8 2013: time for a fairer world'. "Civil society organisations have come together to offer people an opportunity to challenge the policies and priorities of the G8 leaders who meet in Northern Ireland in June 2013", it read.

"Our organisations represent many different interests but we are united in a commitment to the creation of a world that is fair for all. We believe that achieving social, economic and environmental justice must be central to political decision-making. We will coordinate a festival to coincide with the G8 summit, including a major public demonstration in Belfast".

FACTFILE

It will be President Obama's first time in Northern Ireland. Former president George W Bush flew into Northern Ireland for a one-day visit in June 2008. His presence was met with demonstrations from several hundred protesters who took to the streets to voice opposition to the Iraq war.

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