Security drive as Cobh prepares for Paisley visit

GARDAÍ are beefing up security for next Friday’s visit of Ian Paisley to Cobh, Co Cork, amid concerns that dissident republicans are planning a protest.

Hundreds of fliers were delivered to houses in the area in the past few days, urging people to join the protest outside the town’s Commodore Hotel.

No mention was made on the fliers of who was behind the planned protest, but it is understood that gardaí are monitoring the movements of a number of people in the lead-up to Mr Paisley’s visit.

The north’s first minister has been invited to the town by Cobh & Harbour Chamber of Commerce and will deliver a keynote speech at the 50th annual dinner in the hotel on Friday night.

The president of Cobh & Harbour Chamber of Commerce, Joe MacCoitir, yesterday pleaded with anybody intent on protesting to do so in a peaceful manner.

“We can’t stop people protesting, but we hope if a protest takes place it will be peaceful. Very nearly 100% of people in the republic voted for peace and more than 80% in the north. It is time to move on and put the past behind us. People should think about how many lives have been saved since the first ceasefire in 1994. I don’t think anybody wants to go back to a time before that,” he said.

Kathleen Geary, Cobh & Harbour Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said that her organisation prided itself in always having important speakers for its annual function, and as it was the 50th anniversary it was decided to ask Ian Paisley, who accepted.

“The chamber of commerce promotes business in the town and the greater harbour area. Dr Paisley has just come back from the USA, where he’s been promoting commercial ties with the North. We also wish to promote commercial ties.

“Ireland is moving on and it’s time to put the past behind us,” said Ms Geary.

The chamber’s annual dinner, which starts at 8pm, is a sellout event. Hundreds of people are expected to attend the Commodore Hotel for it and they will represent business interests in Cobh, Little Island, Monkstown, Passage, Little Island, Carrigtwohill and Carrigaline.

Ms Geary was speaking yesterday, on the 94th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

“The ship was built in Belfast and Cobh was her last port of call before the tragedy. We are planning to foster links for 2012, when the 100th anniversary takes place. This will involve groups from Cobh, Belfast, Southampton and New York getting together,” Ms Geary added.

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