Belfast and Lough Erne to become no-fly zones during G8 summit

Air exclusion zones will be imposed over parts of Northern Ireland as part of the massive G8 security operation.

Flight restrictions will be in place over Belfast from where world leaders such as US president Barack Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will fly in and out.

An air corridor linking the city to Co Fermanagh and the skies over Lough Erne will also be off limits for three days from next Sunday.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said: “A significant security operation will be implemented to facilitate the transport schedules for heads of state and delegates that will be visiting Northern Ireland to participate in the G8 Summit. The PSNI has requested airspace security restrictions for three different sectors.”

Army chinook and merlin helicopters which were once a common sight during Northern Ireland’s conflict will be used to escort the political premiers and their entourages to and from the summit at the luxury Lough Erne golf resort.

The exclusion zones will not affect scheduled flights into and out of the George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport but passengers have been warned to expect significant traffic disruption because police checkpoints which will be set up on roads in the surrounding areas.

No-fly restrictions over Lough Erne will be put in place between 5pm and midnight from next Sunday to Tuesday. A ring of steel has also been erected around the five-star hotel and a seven-mile stretch of the lough has been shut as the stringent security measures step up.

The corridor route from Belfast to Enniskillen will be out of bounds between 7.30am and 3pm on Monday and from 1pm to midnight on Tuesday to facilitate the departure of the VIPs.

The same strict limits will also be in place over Belfast.

Flying clubs and light aircraft pilots were warned they must adhere to the bans.

“We will be writing to all clubs, associations and societies that we are aware of, who would regularly utilise airspace, to make them aware of these restrictions. For anyone who accesses airspace, they must comply with the restrictions for the period that they are operational,” Mr Finlay said.

Earlier, Superintendent Alan McCrum, the PSNI officer heading the policing operation in Belfast, said he is quietly optimistic the G8 will pass off peacefully.

More than 3,500 officers have been drafted in from England and Wales to help bolster PSNI numbers.

Surveillance drones will also be used to guard key sites in Northern Ireland and some properties such as Stormont’s Parliament Buildings have been given a 24/7 police presence to provide additional protection.

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