Details of visit kept secret from authorities

Mon, May 23, 2011, 01:00

THE US security team protecting US president Barack Obama in the Republic are so secretive that there are some details of his visit that they have not disclosed to the Irish authorities.

Army snipers will be deployed on rooftops around College Green in Dublin’s south inner city where Mr Obama will address the public this evening after returning from Moneygall, Co Offaly.

Stormy weather conditions forecast for today put a question mark over plans to travel by helicopter to Moneygall. There was still a possibility that the trip to Moneygall would have to be cancelled if weather conditions were very unfavourable. However, officials last night insisted that there are contingency plans if the helicopter journey is ruled out.

Those attending the event in College Green will be searched by gardaí and US security personnel at checkpoints on pavements as they enter the network of streets closed to traffic. These checks will involve airport-style metal detector units.

The US secret service agents have made the exact details of Mr Obama’s itinerary known to as few people as possible in the hope this will frustrate any possible terrorist attack while he is here.

The Garda and Army authorities have been forced to plan for a number of scenarios depending on where the US president decides to stay overnight, and whether he takes some of his journeys by car or helicopter.

It is still not clear if Mr Obama will stay in the US ambassador’s resident in Phoenix Park, Dublin, or in the Merrion Hotel near Government Buildings.

It has also not been confirmed if he will travel from Dublin airport this morning by road or by helicopter to Áras an Uachtaráin to meet President Mary McAleese on his first official engagement here.

The Air Corps and Irish Aviation Authority have put in contingency plans for a no-fly zone, and a plan to enforce it, if Mr Obama decides to travel by helicopter to the Phoenix Park from Dublin airport, where his Air Force Onejumbo was due to touch down at about 9.30am today.

Naval Service vessels are enforcing an exclusion zone on stretches of water Air Force Onewill fly low over on its approach to Dublin.

Plans to secure the US ambassador’s residence and also the area around the Merrion Hotel today and overnight have also been developed.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Kevin Ludlow yesterday appealed to anyone planning to travel to Moneygall to comply with Garda directions as the force mounts its biggest ever policing and security operation in the Irish midlands.

It is understood that more than 500 uniformed officers and more than 100 detectives, backed up by members of the Special Detective Unit and armed officers from the Emergency Response Unit, have been active in the area.

Yesterday Garda search teams drawn from as far as west Cork carried out repeat checks of houses and buildings along the village’s Main Street as well as fields surrounding the village.