Fermanagh G8 restrictions 'to be kept small'

Lough Erne resort The Lough Erne resort will be sealed off while world leaders hold the G8 economic summit

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Just 10% of Lower Lough Erne will be affected by restrictions put in place during the G8 summit, an audience in County Fermanagh has been told.

The summit is being held at Lough Erne resort, Enniskillen, on 17 and 18 June.

On Tuesday night more than 200 people attended a meeting in Derrygonnelly to hear about the likely disruption.

The area is close to the resort and some people in the audience live within the cordon that will be in place for most of the month of June.

Representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the venue had been chosen by Prime Minister David Cameron, ahead of more than 100 other locations.

They added that minimising disruption for local people was a priority. One joked that he had grown to know and love the one-way system in Enniskillen and did not wish to add to the congestion the town is already known for.

Another said delegations from the G8 countries that had already visited the area, spoke highly of the warm welcome they received.

These people, along with the world's media, he said, would be spending money in restaurants and cafes, boosting the local economy.

However, a businessman, David Bailey, said he was concerned about the road closures and traffic diversions.

His caravan site is on the road that will be closed - the A46 - for several miles in both directions around the resort.

Police district commander Pauline Shields said diversions would be clearly signposted and all agencies would work with local people to reduce the disruption as much as possible.

There were also concerns raised about the protests that accompany the G8.

'Hippies or eco warriors'

One local man, Colin Ferguson, was worried that no official campsite had been designated for protesters coming to the area.

"I'd just be a wee bit concerned that, having nowhere to stay, some morning we'd be coming out and opening the gate and seeing a group of hippies or eco warriors set up illegally in camp, in our fields," he said.

The fire station in Enniskillen is at the east end of the town, the opposite side to where the G8 will take place.

Robbie Bryson, from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, said an extra fire appliance was being stationed at the west side of the lough, to avoid congestion delaying response to an emergency.

There was some good news on the mobile phone signal front - the west side of the lough is a notorious signal black spot.

Some of the companies which have put up temporary masts will be leaving their equipment in place until more permanent solutions can be found.

School buses

Representatives from the Western Education and Library Board and Translink reiterated the arrangements that had been made to help pupils get to school on time for exams - morning school buses will run half an hour earlier and an extra service has been laid on for eligible pupils on the days of the G8.

While there will be no outpatient appointments or non-emergency surgery during the G8, all emergency services will run as normal.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is also bringing in additional resources and rapid response vehicles.

The chief executive of Fermanagh District Council, Brendan Hegarty, said there would be minimal disruption to bin collections.

Anyone in the area with a regular collection on a Tuesday will not have their bin emptied, but both their normal and recycling bins will be collected the week before and the week after.

On Father's Day, Sunday 16 June, the closure of about 10% of Lower Lough Erne will come into effect.

Chief Superintendent Pauline Shields said water traffic would be cleared from midday onwards.

Keen golfers will have to take a few days off though - one lady who lives outside the cordon asked about access to the golf club.

'Suitably vague'

A representative of the Foreign Office said people would be allowed back and forth to the club, but there would be a cut-off point yet to be decided, most likely a few days before.

The lady described the answer as "suitably vague".

There was a hint as well that local people may get to see something of the famous visitors.

The FCO representatives said details of the agenda are still being finalised, but they were hopeful the presidents and premiers would have a chance to see something of the county they were visiting.

There will be a final public meeting on Thursday 24 May, at the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen.

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