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Olympic-style police boats to patrol Lough Erne during G8

Specialist police boats crews that patrolled the waterways around the London Olympics have been deployed to provide security at next month's G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Marine teams that ensured the safety of the Thames and sailing venues at Weymouth and Portland on England's south coast are already on the waters of Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh.

High speed boats that worked on London 2012 - capable of 35 knots - are also being transported to Northern Ireland.

The world's most powerful political leaders are meeting at the lakeside Lough Erne resort near Enniskillen in mid-June.

As part of the huge security operation around the high profile event, a seven-mile stretch of the county's famous waterway is being closed down completely across three days.

About 3,600 officers from Great Britain will be travelling to Northern Ireland to support 5,000 local police officers on G8 deployment.

Among them are boat crew members that patrolled the Olympic venues.

PSNI Superintendent Alywin Barton, who is involved in leading the marine element of the G8 operation, outlined the plans as he joined one of the patrol boats on Lough Erne at Enniskillen today.

"I can indicate that the operation will be supported by mutual aid officers," he said.

"Some of the officers that are present on the boats today were involved in the operation to police the Olympics."

Mr Barton said other officers who worked on the Olympic operation, including some from the Dorset Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police, will also be involved.

He added: "They are police officers who also are equally trained as coxswains (boat drivers) or boat crew and they are coming across to fulfil that role here, some of their vessels are being brought across as well.

"That is allowing us to enhance our patrol capacity because we don't have sufficient boats within our fleet to be able to deliver the operation that needs to be delivered.

"There are a significant number of boats going to be deployed because the deployment will cover a full shift pattern - 24/7."

While planning for such major political events in any host country has to consider the potential challenges posed by radical anti-capitalist protest groups, in Northern Ireland security chiefs also have to factor in the on-going threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

A section of Lower Lough Erne will be off limits to any boat or vessel for three days as the meeting takes place.

Fermanagh is a county popular with tourists and is famed for its scenic lakelands.

The part of Lower Lough Erne that will be closed down stretches from the lough gates at the historic Portora Royal School on the outskirts of Enniskillen northwards to Ross Point near Blaney.

The Lough Erne Resort is situated in the middle of this section of the lough.

While boats are banned, shoreline activity such as land-based fishing will still be permitted.

Mr Barton said the community was at the heart of the planning and insisted officers were working with regular lough users to ensure disruption was kept to a minimum.

But he warned that anyone deliberately breaching the restrictions would be prosecuted.

The senior officer said closing down the stretch of water - which accounts for around 10% of all Lough Erne - was a significant task.

"It's quite a significant operation to first of all close it down and secondly provide a patrolling presence to ensure it remains closed, that it remains a sterile area and free from any form of water activity," he said.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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