Republicans have welcomed action on the promised demolition of five remaining British army spy posts in south Armagh, which began suddenly this week.
On Monday, a number of British RAF helicopters helped remove sections of the spy posts which have been at the centre of a campaign to have them removed by border residents for over two decades.
The mountain top posts at Camlough Mountain, Jonesborough Hill and Crotlieve Hill were the site of unusual activity. A number of Royal Air Force helicopters, including a Chinook, helped remove sections of the spy posts which have been at the centre of a campaign to have them removed by border residents for two decades.
26-County foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern was on hand to monitor the activity from a vantage point in County Louth in what was seen as a confidence-boosting measure ahead of developments in the peace process.
“The dismantling of the watchtowers on Camlough Mountain, Jonesborough Hill and Crotlieve is yet another tangible demonstration of the transformed security situation in Northern Ireland, and of the benefits it brings to everyone. For years these installations dominated the landscape of south Armagh,” said Ahern.
“Their removal, as part of an ongoing process of security normalisation, is an important step in giving a fresh start to these communities in moving away from the shadow of conflict and towards an open and prosperous future.
“Security normalisation is a key goal of the Irish government and we welcome this positive move. I look forward to the continuing implementation of this demilitarisation programme which is due to be completed by July 2007.”
It was reported that some electronic monitoring equipment would be carried on a mast at one site, although locals expressed confidence that such equipment could not be maintained in the strongly republican area.
MP for the area Conor Murphy said local people were relieved the spy posts were being removed.
“There was frustration that it was taking so long, that the British government or military were dragging their feet on the issue. But people are happy to see it happening now.”
M. Murphy said that local people also needed to be assured that the British Army would bring an end to all of their spying on local homes and businesses.
Speaking from the area, Mr Murphy said Sinn Féin had actively sought the removal of Britain’s war machine from South Armagh and right across the Six Counties.
“This has been a crucial element of our discussions with the British Government over this past number of years. Consistent pressure from Sinn Féin has ensured movement on this issue.
“However, there is considerable anger and frustration at the slow pace of movement regarding demilitarization.
“The people of South Armagh need to know that in removing the Jonesboro watchtower, there is not a correlating increase in covert spying operations. In February of this year, documentation was discovered that the British Army was continuing to spy on local homes and the Dromintee GAA club. Actions such as these only serve to increase local anger.
“I am calling for the completion of this process as speedily as possible and the lands taken from local communities to be returned to them forthwith.”