South Armagh people occupy British military base
On the eve of President Clinton's visit to Ireland, the British government and British Ministry of Defence were left reeling with embarrassment following the takeover of the Glassdrummond Military base on Sunday morning, 10 December, which lasted for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The peaceful demonstration, organised by the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Coimmittee (SAFRC) involved 60 supporters descending on the military base, taking the British troops stationed there by surprise. They immediately radioed for reinforcements, which arrived some 15 minutes later.
Following minor scuffles, as the demonstrators encroached on the base, British troops ran into hiding underground, leaving the base `unmanned'.
Helicopters air lifting in reinforcements landed in a nearby field, with masked RUC members in full riot gear taking up position outside the base. The demonstrators remained within the military base, with the troops hiding underground and the RUC in position outside, while several helicopters continued to hover above. At 12.45pm, SAFRC and its supporters left the base and confronted the faceless RUC members.
Following the takeover of the military base, a number of South Armagh residents reported to the SAFRC that they had been seriously harassed by masked RUC members, who stopped vehicles at random and carried out searches. Noel Keelan, a Monaghan County Councillor and elected representative who was invited by the SAFRC to visit the base, was subjected to a most horrific incident, leaving one of his passengers in great shock. Noel later told the SAFRC that he feared that the masked RUC men who jumped into the path of his car with guns cocked were going to open fire. He and his passengers were held for 30 minutes.
Other protesters had a lucky escape when eight members of the masked RUC team ran after a car and fired one of their batons, hitting the back window and almost causing a road traffic accident.
This demonstration afforded SAFRC an opportunity to record in detail the extensive building and refurbishment that is currently being carried out at the Glassdrummond military base.
BY TONI CARRAGHER
SECRETARY & PRO, SAFRC