My first conference as a representative for Northern Ireland may be in Birmingham but this morning it started to feel a lot like being back in Belfast. As I was leaving my hotel to head towards the secure zone there was a report of seven arrested for suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK.
It feels strange that after yesterday opening my remarks about my forty (almost then) two years association in Northern Ireland that I had never had to be accredited to go shopping behind the security zones, to fly, go to school for a government minister visit etc, that things kicked off last night. Twice there were lock downs the first just affected the conference hotel, the second shut down the entire security zone.
Now I'm the sort of person* who observes things and was noticing heightened police and others presence around the ICC yesterday. It started in the morning, it carried on until I was heading back towards the ICC after 2am when we were in lock down. All through the day I was confident that the police were doing what was needed to maintain our security. Must of my fellow delegates probably didn't notice out of the corner of their eyes some of the stuff that I saw going on. Sure they would have spotted the police marksmen out front, they certainly noticed the erection of the heightened barriers ahead of the the Social Workers little protest. But there were little things that I saw going on that made me feel safe. Even though I don't know it I suspect that the arrests last night were something to do with our presence here.
As all delegates know, there is public access a lot closer to the venue here than in Sheffield, the ring of steel is not physically in place, but the ring of steel is there is very subtle ways. I still disagree that we needed the accreditation process of all conference delegates to the levels we have seen. I think this threat if indeed it was aimed at us was going to be external.
But to all my fellow attendees enjoy conference and don't have nightmares. I certainly won't because I know we're in safe hands.
* Probably has to do with being from Northern Ireland.