Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Mobile phones could be cut for G8 summit amid terrorist bomb fears

Defence Minister warns phones could have been used to trigger Boston bombs

US President Barack Obama, right, is expected to attend June's G8 summit in Co Fermanagh
US President Barack Obama, right, is expected to attend June's G8 summit in Co Fermanagh
The Lough Erne resort in Co Fermanagh will play host to the G8 summit in June
The Lough Erne resort in Co Fermanagh will play host to the G8 summit in June
The Lough Erne resort in Co Fermanagh will play host to the G8 summit in June
The Lough Erne resort in Co Fermanagh will play host to the G8 summit in June

Mobile phone providers in the Irish Republic could be asked to cut signals during the G8 summit being held in Northern Ireland amid fears terrorists may use them to detonate bombs.

Defence Minister Alan Shatter warned that there was a "real danger" lives could be lost in such an event.

"It is possible that terrorist groups may try to use the occasion of the summit to, at the very least, garner publicity for themselves," Mr Shatter said. "This is not to ignore the very real danger of the loss of life if such a device were successfully detonated."

Eight world leaders will jet in for next month's G8 summit in Co Fermanagh, including US president Barack Obama, who will also use the trip to make his first visit to Belfast.

Details of First Lady Michelle Obama's travel will be announced at a later date but she is widely expected to return to the Republic and visit her husband's ancestral homeland in Co Offaly. Other politicians to attend the G8 conference will include German chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

It is believed the meeting on June 17 and 18 will generate up to £40 million (47 million euro) for the local Northern Ireland economy.

Mr Shatter said the summit, at the Lough Erne golf resort on the outskirts of Enniskillen, created a real necessity for legislation to give the Government the power to ask phone companies to cut or limit signals. He revealed the plan as he announced changes to the new Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Bill.

"The purpose of these amendments will be to allow for direction to issue to mobile phone service providers to cease service provision in a limited area in order to prevent death or damage to property," the minister said. "The provision will contain safeguards to ensure that any interference to services is limited to the extent necessary to deal with the threat."

Mr Shatter announced the amendments to the new legislation - which is yet to be passed into law - at a parliamentary committee meeting.

He said mobile phones may well have been used to trigger the two bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon last month.

"There is a system where people can place improvised explosive devices and basically set them off from a distance by use of mobile phones," he said.

"And we do have in this country in place a voluntary cooperative system with telecom companies to address this issue should it arise.

"But I made the decision that it was important - because this is an issue about saving lives - that we put in place a statutory provision that ensures that should, for example, there be a difficulty in getting a telecom company in an emergency to cooperate, that we have a statutory authority to require cooperation."

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