Motorists warned of road restrictions around G8 summit

Motorists across the North are being warned of road restrictions as security arrangements are in place ahead of tomorrow's G8 Summit.

Motorists warned of road restrictions around G8 summit

Motorists across the North are being warned of road restrictions as security arrangements are in place ahead of tomorrow's G8 Summit.

The two-day meeting of world leaders gets underway at the Lough Erne resort in County Fermanagh tomorrow.

Demonstrations held yesterday in Belfast passed off peacefully, as hundreds of police officers and armoured vehicles lined the route.

Road restrictions are in place and anyone residing in or travelling through the region in the areas of South Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan are being warned to expected delays.

Belfast International Airport will be fully operational during the period surrounding the G8 summit but there will be some changes to bus services in the Enniskillen area.

Global issues will be at the forefront of the minds of the G8 leaders – and the protesters set to gather in this rural corner of Northern Ireland to make their voices heard – but for many in this picturesque town the local impact is what occupies them most.

“Enniskillen has had a lick of paint and it’s done it the world of good,” said Gordon McKenna, barman at the Blakes of the Hollow pub on the main street.

If punters buying a pint of the black stuff in Blakes need a reminder of what is happening out at the Lough Erne Golf Resort this week, the bar staff are helpfully inscribing the initials G8 into the creamy head of their drink.

“My hopes are that everything goes off smoothly and we get a good turn out of it,” added Mr McKenna.

“We already have had quite a few tourists in talking about it and everyone so far has been very excited for it and excited to see how it affects the town in the future.”

At the other end of Enniskillen town centre, no more than a 300 metre walk away, a poster of Barack Obama drinking stout – taken during his visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 – is prominent in the window of the Bush Bar.

It hosted its own G8 “opening ceremony” on Saturday night – essentially a good excuse to have a party.

Jackie Swift from the bar said she is confident the G8’s arrival will be a positive for the town.

“We hope it is going to have a really good impact on trade and good for the Enniskillen area itself,” she said.

“It’s fantastic to see it, and I think all the businesses are buzzing and hoping it’s going to be really good for us.”

He may not have called in yesterday, but Ms Swift is holding out hope that the President may be lured in by their advert.

“You never know,” she laughed.

“We have him in the front window, so he might pop in at some stage.”

Enniskillen will be making global headlines this week, just as it was nearly 26 years ago when an IRA bomb killed 11 people attending a Remembrance Day Service at the town’s war memorial.

The contrast between the two news stories, and the wider changes that have taken place across the North as relative peace has emerged in the quarter century in between, is something Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member and Stormont Economy minister Arlene Foster is keen to highlight.

“This is about showing off to a global audience how Northern Ireland has changed completely,” said Mrs Foster, whose constituency office is in Enniskillen.

“People when you talk to them, and I spoke to a Japanese journalist last week, the only news that he knew about Northern Ireland was really bad news from the past and that’s certainly true of Enniskillen given the atrocity we had.

“So we need to change the narrative around what Northern Ireland is all about - it’s a good, local, open regional economy in the UK, open for business and a gateway into Europe.”

Apart from the one or two businesses making the most of the promotional opportunities – you can get G8 sandwiches and ice creams if you look in the right places – the references to the summit itself are not widespread in the town.

In fact if a visitor had not been to Enniskillen before its cosmetic make-over, there’s not much to indicate it is anything other than an extremely tidy place inhabited by a troupe of industrious painters.

Aside from the gleaming shop facades, the big clue that some of the world’s most powerful politicians are on their way is the scale of the security operation.

Not so much in the town itself, but a few miles out the Shore Road a literal ring of steel is in place, with thousands of police officers patrolling in and around the imposing four-mile metal fence that currently encases the summit venue.

While there was a widespread welcome for the clean-up, nagging fears persist that trouble may flare at protests planned in the area – although some of those concerns may have subsided after yesterday’s anti-G8 rally in Belfast passed off without incident.

Hazel Johnston, whose Jolly Sandwich Bar has done a roaring trade in G8 lunch specials, said customers have mixed views.

“Some are very positive,” she said.

“But some again would be a wee bit negative, what with the protests.”

As a business owner, Ms Johnston is very much in the ’yes’ camp.

“For the hospitality trade, it’s very good, there’s a terrific buzz,” she said.

“The town is looking fantastic, hopefully the visitors will be very pleased and will come back.”

Garvan Duffy, proprietor of the Wig and Crown barbers, thinks many of his regulars will not come in when the G8 is on – with the potential for disruption too big a risk to take.

“I’d say a lot of local people that normally make appointments would say they couldn’t be bothered coming into town,” he said.

The businessman said some also harbour concerns that Enniskillen’s make-over is only superficial, and will not address longstanding perceptions that the town has suffered from a lack of investment.

“I think everyone is happy,” he said.

“In one sense they are happy we are the centre of attention, in another sense they are saying ’are they just covering up a lot of cracks that Fermanagh has?’ We get nothing, basically, we need new roads, we need everything changed...hopefully that will come.”

Mr Duffy will go to work this week and take his chance with any disruption.

Trade may be quieter than usual, but then again it would only take just one certain customer to make his year.

“I already have Barack booked in for a shave on Tuesday, if he fancies it,” he said, optimistically.

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