Irish Examiner

Fury and fear as town is turned into a fortress

25 June 2004
By Mary Dundon, Political Reporter

SHANNON residents are furious at US President George W Bush for turning their town into a fortress and making them a target for a terrorist attack, the town's new mayor, Cllr Greg Duff, said yesterday.
Thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Shannon Airport tonight when Mr Bush's plane touches down at 8.15pm.

More than 6,600 Irish security and American secret service personnel will be on duty in the biggest security operation ever undertaken in the State.

Despite his reservations about the EU-US summit visit, Labour councillor Mr Duff appealed to all protesters to be peaceful and not to allow the event be hijacked by anarchists. One group of protesters, Ambush 2004, arrived in Shannon last night but refused to discuss its arrangements with gardaí.

"If there is a threat to President Bush, there is an even bigger threat to the people of Shannon because we will be a real target for terrorist attacks for hosting him and afterwards for allowing US warplanes to continue to refuel at the airport," Mr Duff, who is a member of Shannon Residents against the Bush Visit, said.

Mr Bush is set to visit Turkey when he leaves Ireland tomorrow. Yesterday, two bombs exploded there, one killing four people on an Istanbul bus, the other blowing up near a hotel in the capital, Ankara, where Mr Bush is due to stay.

The people of Shannon are not dismissing the threat to Mr Bush in the aftermath of the bombings in Turkey, but most of them feel the security operation is excessive, Mr Duff said.

Every one of Shannon's 3,000 residents was visited by gardaí, and asked for details of their car registration and their likely whereabouts during Mr Bush's visit.

"Shannon people are really angry at this over-the-top security and many are afraid they may not be able to get family members to hospital on time if they are subjected to long delays or not allowed through security points without a pass," Mr Duff said.

Following the EU-US summit in Dromoland Castle tomorrow, there will be a brief press conference.

A major protest march from Bunratty Castle to Shannon Airport is planned to coincide with Mr Bush's departure at 2.15pm.

Gardaí said last night they were "fully prepared" and hoped there would be no serious confrontations.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is expected to raise the maltreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay with Mr Bush in a bilateral meeting tomorrow morning.

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