Northern Ireland

G8: Lock down on Lough Erne

Police boat patrols Lough Erne
Image caption A number of police boats have been patrolling Lough Erne.

A large section of lower Lough Erne becomes an exclusion zone from Sunday as the security net tightens around the hotel where the G8 leaders will meet on Monday afternoon. Michael Cairns got up close to the fleet of police and military boats guarding the G8 leaders.

While hundreds of police officers were getting soaked in the rains of Belfast as G8 protestors made their point, on Lough Erne their water-borne colleagues were making the most of the uncharacteristic blazing sunshine.

Dressed in black fatigues and baseball caps the police may look similar but their accents give away the fact they have come from across the UK.

As we approached the resort's shore, all our boats became a honey pot for the worker bees in their ribs, but at this stage it was pleasantries and not stings.

I ask the officers where they are from, one crew is from London and the last time they used their boat was at the Olympics.

They are happy to swap pleasantries and to remind us that soon the area we are in will be out of bounds.

Two others we encounter are operated by PSNI officers from the boat section and they were happy for us to film, once they had put their helmets on to hide their faces.

All the crews are based at the Lough Erne Yacht Club on the opposite shore to the G8 conference site.

When our skipper took us inshore, we saw a row of ten high-powered boats tied up, all ready to police the no access area, and moored in front of them a row of cruisers hired from a local company to provide sleeping accommodation.

US Marines

But of particular interest are two larger grey boats on trailers on the shore.

We hear those are owned and manned by the US marines and are part of back-up plans, apparently factored into worst case scenarios in relation to the most high-profile G8 attendee, President Obama.

Our boat is ushered away firmly as we outlive our welcome and it is back to the lough.

The officers will patrol an inner and outer cordon marked by large yellow buoys put in place on Saturday, and enforced for three days over the conference period.

The inner cordon, which is within sight of the golf course of the Lough Erne resort, is made up of a linked boom and net, but the main line of defence is the police boats.

The net, it is rumoured, is to stop divers but it would be quite a swim for anyone planning that as a form of protest.

We get the view of the bunker-sloped green of one of the holes on the Lough Erne resort, and sitting below it, the incongruous vision of a white armoured Land Rover.

Clearly the green keepers may have some additional work to do once the G8 summit is all over.

And as for Lough Erne itself, it hasn't seen so much powerful machinery on its waters since the 1940s, when the flying boats used it to hunt down the unseen enemy of that era, the German U-boat fleet.

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