By Noel Dundon
Tipperary is on an unprecedented high security alert this week with Queen Elizabeth 11 and US President Barack Obama both jetting into the Premier County for flying visits.
The ‘Home of Hurling’ will extend the hand of welcome and a cead mile failte to our distinguished visitors from across both waters as ‘Obamamania’ and ‘Royal fever’ sweep through Tipperary like wildfire. The global media spotlight will shine directly on the county with worldwide focus capturing Tipperary for viewers from Australia to Antartica, Brazil to Brataslava , and Helsinki to Hong Kong.
But, alongside the huge excitement the visits are generating, comes major concerns for the safety of our distinguished guests with massive security operations having been planned for Cashel and South Tipperary to coincide with the Royal visit to the Rock of Cashel and Coolmore Stud on Friday morning, and in North Tipperary/South Offaly, for Barack Obama’s visit to the home of his ancestors on Monday morning.
Cashel and Moneygall will, basically, be no-go-zones for anybody not directly involved in the visits and the message from authorities is loud and clear - don’t come to the areas, because you won’t get near them without prior accreditation and clearance.
Security personnel are on a heightened state of alert following coded messages received in the UK from dissidents and the detection of suspect devices at various locations around the country. And, in The Premier County, with two very public engagements for the elite visitors, arrangements and precautions have been taken to the maximum to ensure the safe, comfortable and enjoyable trips for President Obama, First Lady Michelle, and the Queen of England who will be accompanied by her husband Prince Philip.
Cashel town and Moneygall village have been turned upside down in recent weeks with huge numbers of security personnel converging on the two areas to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the efforts to protect the two VIP’s. A seven mile cordon will be established around Cashel, while similar measures will be taken in Moneygall where the Obama’s will visit the home of the President’s ancestors on Monday. Long delays can be expected in both areas for people wishing to use the roads and the advice is, find an alternative route, if Cashel and Moneygall are close to your normal commute.
Thousands of members of An Garda Siochana, special elite squads from the Secret Service, Scotland Yard, dedicated Royal security details, and the Irish Army have been deployed to oversee the largest ever security operation in Tipperary - former US President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ballyporeen in 1984 pales in comparison to this latest visit in terms of security.
Following the killing of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden two weeks ago by US Navy Seals in Operation Geronimo, security details around the Queen and President Obama - both regarded as legitimate targets for terrorists - have been up-graded significantly. And, their visit to Tipperary makes for many headaches for their security teams, as relatively unfamiliar territory, no matter how well reconnoitered, still brings major challenges.