Martin McGuinness calls for peace on the streets ahead of G8 summit
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has urged anti G8 protesters to maintain peace on the streets.
He warned hardline anarchists intent on causing mayhem to stay away from legitimate demonstrations being held in Belfast and Enniskillen.
"I think all the people who come here from other parts of the world need to be very conscious that they are coming to a place that is no longer at conflict, to a country at peace. I would like them to respect our peace when they come.
"We certainly respect their right to come and articulate their views around issues that I feel equally strongly about such as world conflict, hunger, poverty, unfair taxation," he said.
A stark warning was also issued to dissident republicans who may seek to exploit the opportunity presented by the G8 to gain global publicity.
Mr McGuinness added: "I also say to people who are from here who might think that this is an opportunity to exploit (it) for their own interests, I believe they would be making a huge mistake because they run the very great risk of being confronted by peaceful protesters who want absolutely nothing to do with any violence or conflict on the streets."
Round-the-clock protection has been put on landmark properties across Belfast as the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) ramps up security measures ahead of the G8 summit on Monday and Tuesday.
A ring of steel has been erected around the luxurious Lough Erne complex where world leaders including US president Barack Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel will meet.
Roads in the area have been closed to traffic and vehicle check points have been set up close to the remote resort.
On Saturday, thousands of anti capitalist protesters are expected to take to the streets of Belfast to show their opposition to the G8 during a trade union rally.
Thousands more are expected to travel west to Enniskillen for another protest organised by Unite, the UK's biggest trade union and NIPSA which represents thousands of public sector workers in Northern Ireland on Monday night. Marchers will snake their way through the Co Fermanagh town towards the huge security fence which encircles the five-star hotel.
Shops, restaurants and multi-national banks are expected to shut or board up their fronts to protect premises if violence flares. Plastic sheeting has already been placed over stained glass windows at Belfast City Hall where marchers will converge on Saturday.
Queen's University has said it plans to close all of its buildings over the extended weekend amid fears they could be targeted by militants.
An additional 3,600 police officers have been drafted in from across the UK to provide back up for the 7,500 PSNI patrolling the streets.
Significant disruption is also expected with check points set up around Belfast International Airport from where the world leaders will arrive and depart.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson said he has confidence that the PSNI will be able to cope with any disorder.
"There are people, no matter where you would have this event in the world, who want to protest. If people want to protest the option is there. We encourage them to do so peacefully. If anybody is coming here to cause trouble then we look to the PSNI to deal with it. They are well experienced and equipped to do so.
"The PSNI have been dealing with these kind of issues for a very long period of time. There is a lot of experience in their ranks and they have obviously been augmented by officers from other police services. I have no doubt they will be able to deal with issues but I do not want to talk up the prospect of upheaval and violence. The police will do what they always do, they will prepare for the worst and hope for the best," the DUP leader said.
Political leaders hope the G8 will positively market Northern Ireland to a global audience and demonstrate the changes that have taken place since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Mr Robinson added: "We are now in a new era in Northern Ireland. Put simply the Prime Minister would not have had the confidence to put the G8 in Northern Ireland if we had not had the transformation that we have had over the last number of years. It is in itself a signal that Northern Ireland is a new place, it has changed dramatically and there is a level of peace and stability which mirrors that which you would see in any other part of the democratic world."
Mr McGuinness said the significance of hosting the G8 in a former conflict zone would not be lost on the world leaders.
"It should not be lost on the world leaders that they are coming to a country that is at peace and has successfully managed to forge agreements which are widely admired throughout the world. I would hope that they see us as a beacon of hope for the resolution of other conflicts throughout the world," he said.