Northern Ireland

The G8 is in town, and Enniskillen living is easy

boat protest
Image caption Protesters took to the water on Lough Erne to get their message across
President's limo
Image caption President Obama's motorcade drives through the streets of Enniskillen on its way to the Lough Erne resort
Image caption Andrew Carnegie at his tent where has camped since Friday to protest at the summit
Hunger sign
Image caption The End Hunger sign on the shores of Lough Erne
Flotilla protest
Image caption Two longboats bring their End Tax Dodging message to the G8
boat protest
Image caption Protesters on Lough Erne dressed in masks of the G8 leaders

Pomp and ceremony, polished limos and motor cavalcades. The waiting was over, eight of the world's most powerful people arrived in Fermanagh to sunshine and eager crowds gathered along the road to the shore.

They stood hopefully at street corners, balanced on walls, hung over gates, to catch a glimpse of the superpowers as they passed.

Mothers held up children. "Remember this moment," they whispered as a black polished car swished past. It was ever like this - the hint of a hand waving from behind a tinted car window, a little history being made. A moment to remember, to murmur: "I was there".

An elderly woman dragged out a chair and spent a sunny afternoon seated at her gate, watching the world powers pass.

The road to the lough was edged with yellow police cones and "no parking" signs.

There were police everywhere.


And yet the town wore the day easily, in true bank holiday style.

Earlier that morning, this was a sleepy Enniskillen that woke up and shook itself, like a dog after a nap. If the hand of history was resting on this town's shoulder, then its touch was eerily light.

You could barely tell that eight of the world's most powerful leaders were heading for the Lough Erne resort a few miles up the road. Perhaps they had put the pan on over there and the hotel kitchen was a-frazzle with back bacon and a-jangle with pre-G8 nerves.

But in the town of Enniskillen itself, life seemed to drift along as normal.

Almost as normal - there were few people on the streets - perhaps the fear of traffic jams and endless police searches and the headache of disruption had put them off.

No traffic queues, no crowds… could that be tumbleweed drifting up a side street? And in true spaghetti Western style, it was the strangers riding into town that stood out.

The locals stood bemused in doorways watching the camera crews and the journalists waving notebooks and the photographers chasing the same man and his dog.

It was a town peppered thickly with policemen and sprinkled liberally with journalists in search of a story.

Vaguely bemused

Only the chosen few got beyond the ring of steel and mixed with the most powerful leaders in the world. The rest of us press people waited and watched far behind the ring of razor wire.

The scene had a whiff of an old black and white movie where the expectant father paces and smokes beyond the closed doors of the delivery room as the main event happens somewhere off screen.

Whatever nuggets are decided at this G8 will be swaddled and wrapped up and delivered with a smile at a press conference later on Tuesday.

And here we stand, waiting for the moment when the expectant father looks up just as the midwife emerges from the swing doors, nursing a small bundle in a blanket with a beatific smile on her face: "We shall call this baby, the communique."

Not that the people of Enniskillen were fazed by it all. They remained stoic, they seemed vaguely bemused.

May Wylie runs a buy-and-sell shop on the corner of the main street.

"The landlords got the money to paint up the shops," she said. All is soft cream - a lick of magnolia for the world leaders.

But such were the whispers about disruption that people are not coming into town.

"It is very quiet, I may end up going home. People are afraid to come into the town," she sighed.

Will the G8 make a difference to Enniskillen?

"There are certainly strangers in town," she said. "I've talked to people from Brazil and people from Germany, but whether they were just here on holidays anyway."

Breakfast bap

Julie Snoddy runs two cafes in the town. The morning was quiet, but that was only to be expected, she said.

"This is Fermanagh and it doesn't kick off until lunchtime," she said.

"I think a lot of people have felt the disruption of the G8, especially those on the Shore Road. But I am easy-going, the place was buzzing last week."

And the visitors - police and press - are all partial to a breakfast bap which helps, she joked.

A man who didn't want to give his name said he felt positive about what the G8 would do for Fermanagh.

"We've had police officers from various parts of the UK and I think we'll have them back as tourists," he said.

"They said they couldn't get over the friendliness of people and the beauty of the place."

Down by the river, the protest camp has mushroomed to about six tents.

Andrew Carnegie comes along clutching the hair gel that somebody in the nearby Lakeland Forum gave him for free. He hasn't had a protest like it, he said, people are so kind.

Lights, portaloos and great washing facilities - the Fermanagh rain fell heavily on his tent but the welcome has been a blast of sunshine.

Andrew and his son, Darren, travelled over from Glasgow on Friday. Darren has his own tartan G-string for the G8 - he'll show you if you like.

The pair and their dog, Grace - a summit veteran - come from the Blackhill estate and know a little about deprivation.

For Darren, a chance sighting changed his views and fuelled his wish to come to Enniskillen.

"I saw two people scavenging for food in the bins in Glasgow and I broke down crying. If that can happen in Glasgow in 2013 what does that say?" he asked.

At lunchtime, sunshine greeted the Oxfam IF protest against world hunger.

END HUNGER was spelled out in huge white letters on the river bank and the message End Tax Dodging was written large on the sails of two longboats rowed up the river.

In one, people dressed as the world leaders waved to the journalists and police officers and the locals, all gathered to drink in the atmosphere.

The crowd mingled and savoured the day, basking in longed-for sunshine. The town gave a collective sigh that said: "The day we've planned for has finally arrived" … and the feeling was easy.

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