Statewatch News Online: Northern Ireland: G8: New laws will allow government to shut down mobile phone network as security preparations step up a gear

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Northern Ireland
G8: New laws will allow government to shut down mobile phone network as security preparations step up a gear

As the G8 summit in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland draws nearer, it seems that the security operation surrounding the event will be even more stringent than those that normally accompany international political summits.

The Republic of Ireland's Minister for Justice and Defence, Alan Shatter, has told the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality that legal provisions will be introduced to allow the governmen to force "mobile phone services providers to cease service provision in a limited area in order to prevent death or damage to property." [1]

A report in The Journal quoted Shatter as saying that these provisions are intended to "deal with threat to life and property posed by explosive devices which make use of mobile communications technology in their construction or activation."

Any law would apparently "contain safeguards to ensure that any interference with services is limited to the extent necessary to deal with the threat."

Shatter has claimed that it is "possible that terrorist groups may try to use the occasion of the summit to at the very least garner publicity for themselves."

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph has reported that up to 4,000 police officers "are secretly undergoing training to use water cannon ahead of potential protests this summer," with the weapons "expected to be on standby during G8 talks at the Lough Erne resort in Enniskillen next month but...use is expected to fuel speculation that they could be introduced on the mainland," [2] something that has never before happened. It has been reported that 3,600 extra police officers from Britain will be shipped to Northern Ireland for the meeting. [3]

The authorities are clearly expecting serious trouble: last week the BBC reported that the prison service in Northern Ireland has set aside an entire block of Maghaberry jail "to house protesters convicted of disorder at the G8 summit." Formerly an army barracks, it "will also be used as a temporary holding centre for those arrested." [4]

An anti-G8 group based in Fermanagh, the town in which the summit will be held, responded angrily to the news. They urged people "not to be bullied into not protesting against the G8 in Fermanagh by threats of imprisonment."

Chairman of Fermanagh G8 Not Welcome Frank Duffy recently told the Fermanagh Herald that there are "many reasons why protesters and campaigners will join with local people on our G8 march," but he feels that the police and the media are trying to "scare people off their right to engage in peaceful protest." [5] There will also be a march by trade unionists and NGOs in Belfast the weekend before the G8 meeting takes place. [6]

London will see a number of protests during the summit. The Stop G8 network is organising a week of action and events in London, including "workshops, gigs and cultural events." [7] On Tuesday 11 June they are planning a "Carnival against Capitalism" in the West End, with a press release stating that:

"Traditionally, carnival is the time where the people take over the streets, the bosses run and hide, and the world gets turned upside down." [8]

Organisation of the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland is being assisted by Jim Irons, who was in charge of planning for the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005. The Gleneagles summit was accompanied by a massive security operation, now attributed in part to information supplied to the authorities by undercover officer Mark Kennedy. According to The Courier, Mr Irons visited Northern Ireland to explain how, in 2005, "Perth and Kinross Council set itself the task of working with the police and other agencies to ensure a safe and secure conference." [9]

The policing operation at Glenagles was run at a cost of nearly £100 million. [10] It is currently estimated that for the Enniskillen meeting next month, "the security effort in place to ensure that leaders meet without disruption could cost upwards of £30 million." [11]

[1] Mobile phone networks could be shut off during G8 due to terror threats, The Journal, 15 May 2013
[2] Victoria Ward, Police being trained to use water cannon ahead of potential summer clashes, The Telegraph, 15 May 2013
[3] Mark Mackay, Gleaneagles G8 summit organiser passing on expertise to Northern Ireland, The Courier, 14 May 2013
[4] Kevin Magee, G8: NI prison block 'set aside' in case of trouble, BBC News, 10 May 2013
[5] Local G8 protestors issue rallying call, Fermanagh Herald, 16 May 2013
[6] Michael McHugh, Major protest planned ahead of G8 meeting, Irish Independent, 13 May 2013
[7] Stop G8 website
[8] Press release - Anti-Capitalists publish map of targets in the West End, Indymedia UK, 10 May 2013
[9] Gleaneagles G8 summit organiser passing on expertise to Northern Ireland
[10] Scotland: G8 policing and security costs approach £100 million, Statewatch Bulletin, Vol 15 No 2, March-April 2005
[11] Gleaneagles G8 summit organiser passing on expertise to Northern Ireland

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