The expense of hosting the G8 summit is “money well spent”, claims one former top-level organiser – and without it the world would be a more dangerous place.
That is the view of Sir Nicholas Bayne, who was one of Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s team of “sherpas” – the term given to high-ranking officials who handle the nation’s involvement in the summits.
He said despite the heavy security, Ulster appears to have got the balance right.
But his former US counterpart said that the cost is now “outrageous”, and that leaders always want to outdo each other when hosting it.
Sir Nicholas said: “In my view it is worth it. If this summit meeting didn’t take place the world would be a more dangerous and more fractious place.”
It did bring “great advantages”, he said, adding: “It’s a great boost to the reputation of Northern Ireland to show this is now considered to be a place where the heads of government of these powerful countries could come.
“I think even though it’ll cost the Northern Ireland budget a fair bit, it’ll be money well spent in my opinion.”
In 2010, he said the belief was that Canada had over-done their security measures, but that this year “it doesn’t seem to me that, for most of Northern Ireland, the security is inhibiting the daily lives of people. My judgment is that you’ve got it about right”.
However, Robert Fauver, who managed the US role in the summit on behalf of Bill Clinton in the mid-90s, was also asked if it was worth it.
“Very difficult question,” he said.
While it is valuable for leaders to meet face-to-face and develop relationships, he added: “Now the cost has gotten outrageous. I think they could cut down some of the size of it if they worked harder at it.
“But each head, when it’s their turn to be president of the summit, wants to outdo the person before them.”
Both were at a conference at Queen’s University Belfast, in which academics from across the globe were meeting to discuss the same topics as the G8 leaders – such as international trade and corporate tax avoidance.