Demilitarisation: ``A welcome first step''
BY DEIRDRE FEEHAN
Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy has welcomed the announcement that a number of British military installations are to be closed but he has expressed concern that only part of the Cloghogue observation base in South Armagh will be demolished.
Murphy, who raised the issue of demilitarisation with the British prime minister during the recent discussions at Hillsborough, said the people of South Armagh and the rest of the Six Counties will welcome the closures as the beginning of the British government's programme of complete demilitarisation. ``We will continue to campaign for the total withdrawal of all British military personnel from South Armagh and the rest of the Six Counties,'' he said.
Work is to commence within weeks on the demolition of the British Army base in Cookstown.
Troops will be withdrawn from the Fort George British Army base on Derry's west bank. The land is to be returned to harbour commissioners. Observation posts at Broadway and Templar House in Belfast will also be vacated but not demolished.
It had been thought that the Cloghogue observation base in South Armagh would be completely demolished but it now apears that only an observation tower is to be felled.
RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan said there is also the possibility that the sangar at the square in Crossmaglen may be removed within three months.
Residents of the south Armagh village welcomed the news, Paddy Short, owner of one of the oldest bars in the town and long-time campaigner for demilitarisation, said:
``It's no big deal to hear that they're getting out, because they should have never been here in the first place.
``I have been fighting this battle for 30 years and I'm angry and bitter because in 30 years the British Army have achieved absolutely nothing.''
A New Lodge resident said: ``It's not before time. You will no longer have the British Army coming banging on your doors at all hours in the morning and no longer will the people of the New Lodge be used as a human shield for the British Army.''