PSNI hails ‘most peaceful and secure’ G8 summit in history
Scale and cost of security operation was justified, says chief constable
A protester dressed as Osama Bin Laden at the security fencing outside the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh. Photograh: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has insisted that the £50 million and rising cost of policing the two-day G8 was necessary and justified notwithstanding that it was the most peaceful summit ever held.
A happy and relieved Mr Baggott held a press conference in Belfast this morning where he looked back on “the most peaceful and secure G8 summit in history”.
Protests in Belfast on Saturday and in Enniskillen on Monday were small and peaceful in contrast to previous G8s in cities such as Seattle and Genoa where there was serious disorder. There were just two arrests connected with G8 protests in the North.
The PSNI’s force of 7,200 officers was augmented by 3,600 officers from England, Scotland and Wales while the Garda and Army provided 1,000 personnel to maintain Border security.
Mr Baggott said the current estimated cost of the security operation was £50 million but that this would rise. Most of it is to be paid for by the British central exchequer.
Mr Baggott said the PSNI operation was not “over the top” because police had to be prepared to face potential huge protests and also the threat from dissident republicans. Police were also conscious of the “quite extreme violence” at some previous G8s.
He believed the reputation of the PSNI in dealing with demonstrators may have been a factor in the low turnout of international protesters. He said anarchists wanted police to “react in a very negative way, but we don’t do that here”.
“If you are going to come and cause misery and violence you don’t come to a place where policing facilitates lawful protest and deals with the outbreak of that in a very measured way. That is not the headline that these people want,” added Mr Baggott.
“Quite frankly the atmosphere here, the environment of policing, was not conducive to that sort of protest and they haven’t come,” he added
Mr Baggott said the PSNI also put “enormous effort” into ensuring dissidents were not able to disrupt or threaten the summit. “This is a unique G8 because it is taking place in an environment where there is a severe terrorist threat and where just next door there is an open European door border where that threat could emanate from.”
The chief constable said the overall feedback was extremely positive with some of the British officers booking holidays in Northern Ireland because they were so impressed with the place and the people. “If you get that from police there is no reason at all why people across Europe, across America won’t also be booking their trips here,” he said. “I think we have helped the showcasing of Northern Ireland.”
Assistant chief constable Alistair Finlay, who had operational command of the security operation, also praised the protesters for their cooperation and engagement with police and in ensuring their demonstrations were vibrant put peaceful.
Mr Baggott must now turn his attention to trying to deal with this summer’s marching season and most immediately with Friday night’s loyalist Tour of the North parade in north Belfast. He hoped the success of the past few days would set a positive example.
He said, “I am optimistic on the back of what has been achieved. In the past few days with the renewed impetus to a shared future, with a far greater degree of political consensus and sensible voices being heard there is absolutely no reason why this summer’s parading season shouldn’t be an exemplar in the way that the G8 was. We should be setting an example here for the parading season, and I think that it entirely possible.”