Obamasirishvisit

Big security bill for big visits

It will cost around €30 million for the security operation to protect Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama when they separately visit Ireland in the next couple of weeks. The back-to-back security operation will be the largest in the country's history.

Extra funding has been given to the departments of justice, foreign affairs and defense in order to ensure the two heads of state are protected during their visits.

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The final total will not be known until the visits are over and additional costs such as police overtime are added, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said.

"While the financial requirements will undoubtedly be significant, the safety of the queen and the president will be the paramount considerations involved for the gardai and the state," he said.

Senior security sources have estimated that close to 7,500 people will be involved in the security plan, including gardai, military personnel and civilian employees.

As well as regular equipment available to the gardai and the military, it is understood the Irish government has negotiated the loan of a range of technology from other countries to boost defenses against any potential terrorist attack.

Surveillance on known dissident republican activists and supporters, as well as sympathizers of groups affiliated to al-Qaeda will also be stepped up, and anyone arousing suspicions will be detained.

Passenger records on all planes and boats entering or leaving Ireland from this week until early June will be closely examined to help the security forces keep watch on potential activists. Gardai will also actively police street protests and demonstrations and steer them away from routes to be used by the royal and presidential visiting parties.

Although the arrangements for the queen's visit have been mostly completed, the planning for Obama's trip is still under consideration. U.S. Secret Service agents are taking account of the enhanced terrorist risks after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Members of the British army's SAS will arrive in Dublin this weekend to examine key sites which the queen will visit during her trip. Members of the force, which played a controversial role in the Northern Ireland Troubles, will also reportedly be part of her security team during the visit.

Meanwhile, some details of President Obama's visit are emerging. On Monday, May 23, Obama will address 5,000 people outside the schoolhouse where his ancestors, the Kearneys, were educated in Moneygall, County Offaly.

And at the home of his Moneygall ancestors, the president will hear a talk on life in Moneygall in the late 18th century, most likely by a local heritage officer or historian, the Irish Independent reported.

Meanwhile, the nearby village of Shinrone, also in Offaly, is laying claim to Obama. Newly uncovered records show that members of the Kearney family also lived in its local parish.