Northern Ireland

David Ford says 'mass protests planned' for G8 summit

There are indications that mass protests are already being planned for the G8 summit in June, the Northern Ireland justice minister has said.

David Ford said, during a NI assembly debate, "lawful, peaceful protests" would be facilitated.

Mr Ford said police had well-advanced plans in place at the summit's venue, Belfast International Airport and other undisclosed locations.

The summit is being held at the Lough Erne golf resort in County Fermanagh.

In response to concerns from a number of members over cost, the minister said he expected most of the bill for extra resources needed to police the summit to be paid for by the Westminster government.

He said he did not expect it to come out of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's budget.

It is estimated that the security bill could be around £30m.

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott, who tabled the debate, said he was extremely supportive of the summit coming to Northern Ireland.

'Vote of confidence'

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said local people were also largely "content" but had raised some concerns on how businesses would be affected.

Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan said people should be able to send a message to the world's media "in a sensible way" but did not want scenes of rioting to be the "lasting legacy" of the summit.

"There's a very important message outside the G8 where those who want to send a message to these leaders are given that opportunity to engage in a sensible, peaceful and lawful campaigns," he said.

Trevor Lunn of the Alliance Party said the decision to hold the summit in Northern Ireland showed "a terrific vote of confidence in this country".

"It will be an opportunity for people around the world to view the expertise of the PSNI," he said.

The summit - which brings together the leaders of the US, UK, Canada, Russia, Germany, Italy, France and Japan - was last held in the UK in Gleneagles in Scotland in 2005.