Peace in Northern Ireland will be a focal point for next year's G-8 summit of world leaders, Prime Minister David Cameron declared Tuesday as he unveiled plans to host the annual gathering in the long-troubled British territory.
"The world's leaders are going to be here next year debating the issues that are vital to the future of our world, vital to the future of Northern Ireland, and seeing this brilliant, beautiful part of the United Kingdom," Cameron announced at the end of a question-and-answer session at a forklift factory in Northern Ireland.
Cameron is current chairman of the G-8 encompassing the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. Leaders are expected to gather June 17 and 18 at a luxury hotel and golf resort beside Lough Erne in Northern Ireland's County Fermanagh lakeland.
Staging the G-8 in Fermanagh appears certain to present a test for the peace process in Northern Ireland, where several small Irish Republican Army factions continue to mount occasional bomb and gun attacks in opposition to the province's 5-year-old unity government of British Protestants and Irish Catholics.
Fermanagh borders the Republic of Ireland and it remains an area of relatively high activity for the IRA die-hards who oppose the 2005 decision of most IRA members to renounce violence and disarm.
Fermanagh's main town, Enniskillen, is forever linked in the public mind to one of the IRA's worst civilian slaughters: a 1987 no-warning IRA bomb that tore through a crowd of Protestant civilians commemorating the British dead from the two world wars.
Eleven were killed and 63 wounded. But the horror also gave the world one of Northern Ireland's most inspiring peacemakers, Gordon Wilson, who hours after the attack from his hospital bed described how he had said goodbye to his dying daughter Marie as they lay buried together in the rubble — and then publicly forgave her IRA killers.
First Minister Peter Robinson, the Protestant leader of the Northern Ireland government, praised Cameron for "his continued efforts in helping us to promote Northern Ireland on the global stage. This is a massive boost for us."
His Catholic colleague, former IRA commander and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, was more circumspect.
McGuinness noted that both parts of Ireland had "suffered terribly as the result of the world recession caused by the irresponsible behavior of financial institutions and some governments." He said he hoped G-8 leaders "when they come to Fermanagh will recognize and accept the need to do something deep and profound to assist people."
The one thing no police operation can stop is Fermanagh's legendarily wet weather. There's a local saying: Half the year, the lakes are in Fermanagh; the other half, Fermanagh's in the lakes.
Lough Erne Resort, http://www.lougherneresort.com/