British occupy more flats
BY PADRAIG MacDABHAID
The British Army is busy occupying the eleventh floor of a residential flats complex in North Belfast.
Meabh House in the New Lodge Road area already has a British Army spypost on the roof and twelfth floor that has been the centre of controversy for over 25 years.
The British cleared residents out of the eleventh floor when they took over the upper floor and roof. Now, they are extending their base to the eleventh floor.
Residents of the flats complex have long campaigned against the British military presence in the building. At the end of last year, severe wet weather caused serious water damage to flats below when drains blocked by the British Army overflowed. Just weeks prior to the flooding, the Ministry of Defence had refused to allow the Housing Executive onto the roof to carry out repairs.
Suspicions that the British were about to take over the eleventh floor of the tower block were aroused on Wednesday 2 February when, during the night, drilling was heard. A pipe was burst and leaked into the tenth floor, damaging a number of flats. Residents complained that they were then kept awake until 4 o'clock in the morning by pumps being used by the British Army to stop the flooding.
Sinn Féin held a meeting with the Housing Executive on Thursday 3 February in order to clarify the situation. The Housing Executive claimed they knew nothing about the situation, while the British Army dismissed claims that they had occuypied the eleventh floor.
However, speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin Councillor Gerard Brophy confirmed that soldiers had begun to seal the stairways in the flats complex and were moving troops onto the eleventh floor. He said: ``This is an appalling act which exaggerates the extreme housing shortage in the New Lodge but is also contrary to the Good Friday Agreement. At a time when the socio-economic position is meant to be improving and our society is supposed to be demilitarised, my constituents are being deprived further and their estate is being remilitarised.''