The G8 inevitably brings certain security elements to the host nation that have become inexplicably intertwined with the event. A simple Google of “G8 security threats” will provide you with an almost unending list of issues that other countries have had to overcome. In many ways the threats that Northern Ireland will encounter in June will be similar to those faced by other host nations. However, the surge of the New IRA and the growth of the online Anarchist movement will bring new challenges to test police resources as never before.
Protesting and expressions of opposition to government are indeed needed in a democracy. It reinforces checks and balances and maintains that the government must answer to the people. Thousands of individuals attend the G8 meetings every year to protest peacefully in getting their message across. However the anarchist threat, which has evolved over the last two decades, cares not about politics or social change. Some members of groups like the Black Bloc are career protesters bent only on destruction and opposition to authority. Many attend the protests without any actual cause themselves just looking to take advantage of the large crowds that provide anonymity.
As noted in Toronto’s G8/G20 summit, Black Bloc supporters infiltrated harmless protesters making it extremely difficult for police to single them out or move in. As a result the Black Bloc was able to carry out millions of dollars in damage as police and media watched in real time. Certainly if we look to social media the ability for anarchists to organize, coordinate and remain anonymous has increased dramatically.
In the last week anarchist social media traffic surrounding the Northern Ireland G8 on Facebook has peaked. The largest growth of that group being individuals between 27 and 34 years of age from the UK and Ireland, according to Facebook analytics.
For law enforcement agencies sites like these offer an opportunity to pre-screen individuals that appear to be planning criminal acts upon arrival. As we have seen with previous G8/G20 events many nations now have legislation that would allow the state to turn away individuals that threaten public safety.
If you have followed Anonymous in any way over the last 5 years then you will have seen the two masks that are representative of Anonymous collective. Behind one mask are those individuals which primarily have joined the leaderless group for altruistic purposes. Those Anonymous individuals have identified corrupt politicians, gathered evidence on criminals, and brought to light poor business practices and security issues of major corporations.
The darker side of the mask, which is also Anonymous, is comprised of individuals that use the internet like a balaclava to hide themselves while committing criminal acts online. Some of the those acts are more innocuous like altering the homepage of government websites. Other more serious attacks have crippled websites, stolen customers personal information, and targeted denial of service attacks at multi-national corporations. In security situations, like the upcoming G8, groups like anonymous have attempted to steal security plans in the past. So while the threat they pose is minimal from a physical or violent nature, their ability to gather intelligence to support other groups is concerning. Already we have seen Anonymous Northern Ireland align with other anarchist groups in supporting their activities and targeting the G8.
The New IRA
While the anarchists present a very real threat of physical damage and violence targeted towards police, the New IRA present the greatest overall threat to the G8 event. In fact in two separate IRA related incidents in recent months both a car bomb and modified mortar attack have been intercepted by police.
The greatest concern by analysts appears to be the consolidation of IRA interests including older Provisional IRA bomb makers with a younger generation only too eager to learn. What has caught police and law makers off guard is the speed with which this newly formed group has come together and endeavoured to carry out attacks.
That the New IRA has spurned requests for peace talks by Sinn Fein both publicly and via social media means that traditional avenues of negotiation are yet to be established.
With no guarantees that the New IRA won’t use the G8 event as an opportunity to further its goals, this will be one more direction security services will be pulled in ensuring a safe and successful G8 event.
By: Jeff R. Weyers