This Monday, the G8 Summit began in a small town in Northern Ireland. This particular meeting of the members of this prestigious club of the richest nations in the world had a price tag of £50 million just for security purposes. The question that naturally arises is, Considering its price, why did the summit take place in Fermanagh County?
The G8 summits were in the past a target of numerous protests. Since the 2001 summit in Genoa was targeted by 200,000 protesters, all subsequent G8 meetings have been held in remote locations that would make it more difficult for the potential protesters to organize. Last year the gathering was about to be held in Chicago, but the location was changed to Camp David after the Occupy movement promised to converge on the city. This year, the chosen place is the tiny town of Enniskillen, which is located two hours' drive from Belfast.
The very choice to hold a meeting of the eight richest nations in Northern Ireland is an interesting one. There are at least two reasons why this area was chosen when deciding the location of the summit. The first was the newfound stability in the region, and the second was the lengths to which law enforcement there was ready to go to preserve that stability.
“Today the world has seen a new Northern Ireland that is not only beautiful, as you can see from the wonderful scene behind me, but a Northern Ireland that is open for business, a Northern Ireland that is bringing down the walls that have separated its people for so long, a Northern Ireland determined to be defined by a shared future, not by a divided past,” David Cameron, the British prime minister, said to the press. In this statement Mr. Cameron clearly underlines why it was decided for the summit to be there: beautiful nature (hence the display of tourism potential) followed by a business-friendly atmosphere created from the newly emerged peace between the conflicting sects.
Regardless of what happens at the summit itself, the world will see that this region has finally parted from the sectarian violence that was present there. As Mr. Cameron said, it would be impossible to hold a meeting of world leaders in that place 20 years ago. But today the situation is different and Northern Ireland has changed for the better. Following the summit, new businesses are expected to arrive and tourism may once again flourish. Because of this, the price tag of £50 million seems small in comparison to potential benefits that this advertisement of Northern Ireland might bring. It follows that the governments in Westminster and Stormont are very keen to show that Northern Ireland is free from the merest sign of trouble, and they are ready to do whatever it takes to keep it this way, even though the inhabitants of this little town are not the happiest people on the planet at the moment, having been exposed to the unseen media attention and police actions that may in some cases be considered as police brutality.
On the other hand, the officials are certain — the price of the summit is irrelevant. Mr Robinson, the Northern Irish first minister, said to The Guardian that it would bring “tremendous economic advantage,” while other officials agreed that the positive publicity couldn’t be bought. Moreover, the region's name was heard across the globe in every news report that was published since the beginning of this week. Luckily, looking at the economic statistics that come in after the summit ends, we will shortly be in a position to evaluate whether this promotion plan was successful.