G8 summit: Now Enniskillen will be known for more than just the bomb attack
“People know Enniskillen as the town where the bomb went off and all those people died. This will give them something else to remember us by. Something positive.”
Those were the words of one trader in the Co Fermanagh town minutes after the announcement that the G8 summit will take place there next June.
Sonya Millar’s shop, Diamonds and Pearls, is just yards away from the cenotaph in the centre of Enniskillen at which the lives of dozens of local families were ripped apart 25 years ago.
The scars of the Remembrance Sunday bomb — which killed 11 and injured more than 60 people — still run deep in Enniskillen.
But on Tuesday there was widespread joy, pride and excitement on its streets as the town prepares to create a new legacy.
Judging by the mood of those in its streets, the welcome mat will be rolled out emphatically for the most high profile event ever staged in Northern Ireland.
“This will be great for the town and Fermanagh,” said Ms Millar.
“Not only will it bring so many people into Enniskillen, it will show off our town and county to the world. Enniskillen will now be seen in a positive light.”
Work is currently being carried out on Enniskillen’s festive decorations. Yesterday’s early Christmas gift was considered by many to be an opportunity to create a new legacy, far removed from Enniskillen’s darkest hour.
“It’s very good news,” said Darren Ferris, of J Trimble Meats, based in the town centre. “This will put us on the map.”
Patricia Stenson, of Sew it Seams, added: “It’s fantastic. This will give us the chance to show Enniskillen off to the world.”
Hotel rooms and guest houses are filling up fast, with the proprietors of Enniskillen’s vast array of eateries and pubs licking their lips at the prospect of an influx of visitors, both during the summit and from the predicted spin-off it will have for the local economy.
It’s hard to envisage the high-profile guests who will be attending the summit not being taken with the character of the bustling town, nestled in Fermanagh’s spectacular patchwork countryside consisting of woodland, parkland and, most notably of all, its famed lakes.
In the past Fermanagh people have often complained about being Northern Ireland’s “forgotten county”.
But that will all change next June when for one remarkable week the eyes of the world will be on it, the luxurious Lough Erne Resort and nearby Enniskillen, where media from all corners of the globe will be camped.
Prime Minister David Cameron described the area as “one of the most beautiful places in the entire United Kingdom”, joking he may have trouble “keeping President Obama off the golf course”.
Shoppers were buoyed by the news, with Mr Cameron’s announcement spreading rapidly throughout the town centre yesterday afternoon.
Many said they were looking forward to spotting Mr Obama when he comes to town.
Student Amy Scullion said: “It would be great to see Barack Obama in our wee town. Everyone’s talking about it.”
Whether or not Enniskillen’s modest airport, St Angelo, is ready for Air Force One to touch down on its runway on the shores of Lough Erne remains to be seen.
And given the historic, narrow, winding streets of Enniskillen’s town centre, President Obama might be best leaving his car — known as The Beast — at home after it became stuck on a ramp during last year’s presidential visit to Dublin.
A county in lockdown
While the PSNI is pretty adept at dealing with security situations and public disorder, next year’s G8 summit will involve the biggest policing operation ever in Northern Ireland.
The Chief Constable will most likely have to call in extra resources from other forces across the UK to help police the event.
Fermanagh will be in security lockdown before and during the summit and security operations will be in force in neighbouring towns and cities to try and keep protesters under control.
The air space above the Lough Erne resort will be closed during the top-level talks.
With so many influential world leaders in one small place, they will all want their own security services to be involved.
The United States secret service will be in the province several weeks before the summit, working with the PSNI.
Barack Obama will be hoping they don’t embarrass him as they did earlier this year when 11 members of his advance security team were sent home from Colombia following reports of alleged misconduct with prostitutes.
Euro crisis dominates
The Eurozone will likely be back at the top of the agenda at the 2013 summit amid fears that one wrong move could trigger a fresh global financial crisis.
At this year’s summit President Obama said resolving the crisis was of “extraordinary importance” to the world. But with no end in sight to the crisis — the President of the European Commission warned that Eurozone countries are failing to stop the “contagion” of the debt crisis — the single currency will once again dominate talks among the leaders.
David Cameron said he is keen for the G8 to focus on three main themes — the fight against protectionism in global trade; action against tax avoidance; and promoting greater transparency and openness in governments and businesses around the world.
The Prime Minister recently announced he will be holding a hunger summit next year so he will want to use the summit to persuade G8 members to help tackle the world hunger problem.
£100m boost predicted
With the expected arrival of up to 2,000 delegates and the world’s media it is being estimated that the summit could boost the Northern Ireland economy by a welcome £100m.
But it is post-summit when the real benefits could start rolling in for the province. Northern Ireland will be seen on the global stage as a place to invest and do future business.
“The long-term financial benefits of this could be huge for Northern Ireland,” said economist John Simpson. “It is an opportunity for Northern Ireland to be seen as a place for international investment. It is an extremely valuable opportunity for businesses across the world to see Northern Ireland as a place where they can come to in the future. The only thing that could help us along is to arrange for a large roof to keep the rain out.”
It is also going to be a big chance for Fermanagh to sell itself as a tourist destination.
As for the Lough Erne resort, which is no stranger to financial difficulties having gone into administration last year, it can now put itself on the global golf map.
Expect chaos on roads
For the locals in Fermanagh in June it will be a case of having to batten down the hatches. The area will be in complete lockdown before and during the summit.
As well as summit delegates, up to 2,000 reporters are expected to converge in Fermanagh with conference rooms and studios having to be built for them.
Traffic disruption is bound to be immense, considering that almost all of the roads within 30 miles are single carriageway.
Neighbouring towns and cities who believe they may be largely immune from the security surrounding Lough Erne resort may very well be disappointed.
Just 10 miles from Gleneagles in Scotland where the 2005 summit was held, Stirling found itself between police and anti-G8 protesters when protesters set up camp.
Other cities and towns across the province could be brought to a standstill by demonstrators. In Edinburgh in 2005, more than 220,000 people joined a peaceful Make Poverty History march.
A few days later the city was brought to a halt as police and protesters faced off following a demonstration.
Streets to get a shine
Preparations will begin months in advance to spruce up the towns and villages of Fermanagh for the arrival of the world’s leaders.
Although for the most part they will be inside, they will still be shown glimpses of Northern Ireland and it will have to be looking its best.
Expect to see armies of street cleaners ensuring the roads and pavements across the county are immaculate for the summit.
The lakes will be dredged, shop fronts will be repainted, hedges trimmed, lawns perfectly manicured, streets adorned with hanging baskets and kept totally litter free.
During the Royal visit to Enniskillen this year and the Irish Open in Portrush no expense was spared in beautifying the towns.
Next year’s clean-up across Fermanagh will be on an even greater scale.
And the Lough Erne resort itself will be pulling out all the stops to make sure its hotel and golf course has the wow factor.
Fears of violent clashes
Demonstrators are already starting to get organised for the June summit. The Socialist Party yesterday announced the planning of “major protests”.
Party spokesman Paddy Meehan said: “We are determined to build a broad alliance to organise a massive protest against this summit.”
Fermanagh itself will be sealed tight to prevent protesters getting anywhere near the talks. Major security operations will be launched across other parts of the province to ensure demonstrations do not turn violent.
Many previous G8 gatherings have been overshadowed by clashes between protesters and police.
In Genoa in 2001 there were major riots with one protester shot dead and a number of people left in comas. More than 20 police officers were convicted of grievous bodily harm.
Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons against protesters in Swiss and French cities near Evian where the Group of Eight summit was held in 2003.
In Germany in 2007 nearly 1,000 people were injured in riots during a G8 demonstration.