Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Forget protesters, this world summit is Gr8 chance for us to shine at last

TV hit: Fall star Gillian Anderson
TV hit: Fall star Gillian Anderson

Prime time dramas showcasing the scenic splendour of this part of the world are currently coming at us faster than you can say Bafta award-winning TV series. They include the dark, new thriller The Fall starring local actor Jamie Dornan as a crazed serial killer, the massive global hit that is Game of Thrones and, due curtain-up in Enniskillen in a just few weeks time, the G8-est show on earth.

Featuring, as this will, just about every major world leader we're currently speaking to, the G8 will inevitably entail the attendance of media teams from all over.

And presumably when they're not training their lenses on Vladimir and Barack striding purposefully around Lough Erne, they will have some time to check out the local hospitality industry for themselves with a view to reporting back to an audience of many millions.

Already we're told local business is cashing in on the event. Hotels north and south are booked out, residents in the area are renting out their houses and while the bar trade may be gasping for air in Belfast, in the wider Enniskillen area they're looking forward, not surprisingly, to a summer bounce.

On the statistics front, research this week by Barclays reveals that almost three quarters of respondents working in the tourism and hospitality business believe the G8 will be an all-round Good Thing.

They believe that it will show a new positive side to this place which in turn will bring in jobs and, importantly, money.

A figure in the region of £40m has been mentioned.

Where this figure comes from I'm not entirely sure, but let's not look a potential gift purse in the mouth.

Much of the economic optimism is based on the survey's finding that respondents believe that visiting leaders, leaderenes and their respective entourages will take back home with them the distinct impression that we've finally got our act together here.

A fantasy plot line to rival Game of Thrones? Let's hope not ...

For another thing the G8 summit may have to rival Game of Thrones is battles. Big epic battles.

It's not just the Co Fermanagh hospitality industry which is currently wrestling with the logistics of conference accommodation demands.

Rooms are also being set aside in Maghaberry...

For the G8 will, ironically enough, provide a showcase for another of those things we do awfully well around here.

Protesting.

Unusually on this occasion, this won't be entirely in-house as we can look forward to hosting considerable numbers of visiting protesters. The sort that come with yurts and fairy wings. And in some cases, flares, gas masks and missiles. Eco-warriors, anti-capitalists, anarchists, you name it, they're all headed here.

The police are confident, however, that they can cope. Somewhere in the region of 3,000 officers from across the water are being drafted in. And the security firm G4S (which didn't exactly impress at the Olympics) is sending reinforcements.

I'm not sure such defence preparations suggest to you either the image of a new, positive Northern Ireland being shown off to its best on a global stage.

We can but hope the verdant glory of the Fermanagh lough-land will still be clearly visible to potential holiday-makers in any news coverage should it come down to hand-to-hand grappling in the Enniskillen hinterland.

For, whatever happens, the spotlight will be well and truly upon this place.

As the wee girl in that vitamin ad says; "It's our time to shine ... "

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