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Hoping for peace ...but Northern Ireland is preparing for G8 summit troublemakers

By Noel McAdam

Isolation has proven a key factor in the selection of sites for G8 summits in recent years.

Since the violence which marked the events in Edinburgh in 2005 and Genoa in Italy in 2001, locations which can be effectively sealed off by security have increasingly been chosen.

Thus the choice of the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh and the six-metre high fence erected around the main road leading to where the G8 leaders assemble a week from today.

The 'Fortress Fermanagh' fence – estimated to have cost around £4m – went up just over a week ago and is expected to remain in place for a fortnight following the two-day event. Up to 1,000 anti-capitalist and anarchist protesters are said to attempt to turn up at all G8 and G20 events. At least some of that number are expected in Belfast and Enniskillen, along with local protesters.

Police are thought to be keeping an eye on ports and airports for known troublemakers. While the vast majority of people in the demonstrations are expected to be peaceful, it only takes a hard core of people intent on violence to cause chaos.

The largest G8 protest is expected to be in Belfast next Saturday. While the PSNI won't give the numbers they may have to deal with, it's expected that tens of thousands will arrive in the city.

Two marches are planned for Enniskillen next Monday – the first day of the summit – one by the trade union Unite the Union and a second by People before Profit which are expected to be joined by anti-fracking groups.

One group of protesters expected in Fermanagh for the summit is known as the Clown Army, whose members dress in combat gear and clown wigs.

Superintendent Alan Barton said: "They come along on occasions with colourful wigs or tickle sticks and they will engage with the local community or with the police on duty at the event. They will seek the publicity in order to raise the issue they are campaigning in respect of."

Police are expecting anywhere from a few thousand to 15,000 protesters in Enniskillen. People can expect to see police in riot gear, dog handlers and Land Rovers. Water cannon will also be on hand, as well as helicopters and boats. An unmanned aerial drone would also be available.

In the event of arrests, the former Lisanelly army barracks near Omagh will also be used as a temporary holding centre.

Justice Minister David Ford (below) said: "It would be very foolish if we did not plan for the potential of significant trouble."

Lisanelly could hold up to 300 people while Maghaberry Prison in Co Antrim has 108 cells and could accommodate a further 200 prisoners.

There have been violent scenes at G8 summits in the past sparked by anti-capitalist groups. In July 2001, during a summit in Genoa there was violence and a 23-year-old demonstrator was shot and killed by police.

Four years later in Edinburgh around 200,000 marchers took part in the Make Poverty History campaign. While largely peaceful, 200 protesters breached a fence surrounding the hotel where the summit was held. Around 700 arrests were made.

This year thousands of people are expected to join peaceful protests supporting the anti-hunger Enough Food For Everyone campaign which has been organised by groups like Oxfam and Trocaire.

About 15,000 people are expected to attend a music festival in Botanic Gardens in Belfast.

Organiser Dan Scofield said it was important to differentiate between those going to this event and protesters intent on causing violence.

"We 100% want to distance ourselves from any violent protests. We are looking at a family-friendly event for people to have their voices heard," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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