Gardaí have told protesters from the Irish anti-war movement that they will allow up to 10,000 people to take up a position half a mile from Dromoland Castle while US President George W Bush is there.

President Bush will spend Friday night behind the tightest ring of security the Government can mount.

After a meeting between the Gardaí and representatives of the movement in Portlaoise this afternoon, spokesperson Richard Boyd Barrett said that while they were pleased the protest would be allowed to go so close to Dromoland Castle, they were disappointed that a request to continue the protest afterwards to Shannon Airport had been turned down by the Gardaí.

Supt John Kerin, who met the protest group this afternoon, described the meeting as cordial.

The Irish anti-war movement say they must now decide whether they will also stage a protest at the airport on Saturday.

The movement called on the Minister for Justice to lift the restriction preventing them from marching there.

Spokesperson Richard Boyd Barrett said the Gardaí were enforcing the ban because they were still unclear whether or not Mr Bush will travel by road or by helicopter between Shannon and Dromoland.

Gardaí and Army units are continuing to increase security around the airport and castle in advance of the week-end visit.  At the airport the army's engineering corps has been digging trenches and laying out razor wire barriers.

The first anti-war demonstrators have arrived in the area over the past 24 hours and have now set up a small temporary peace came on the outskirts of Limerick.