Girdwood base to go
Girdwood base to go

Demolition work has begun on an infamous British Army base once used as a centre for torturing irish republicans.

Girdwood base in north Belfast is undergoing demolition in a possible attempt to encourage the Provisional IRA to completely disarm.

Workmen were working on dismantling the communications towers and two huge cranes have been commissioned to take the base apart.

Nationalists have welcomed the demolition of the barracks and have called for the land to be made available for badly needed housing.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Danny Lavery said everyone living in the shadow of the base would be saying “good riddance to Girdwood”.

He compared the base to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

He said: “We are happy and grateful that Girdwood barracks is coming down after much pressure for it to go from Sinn Féin.”

“This ends over 30 years of a legacy of murder, injustice, abuse and torture meted out to the nationalist community from within the walls of this base in North Belfast.”

British officials would not put a timescale on how long Girdwood’s demolition will take.

A spokesman said: “The military installations will go first and the sangars and then the rest of the base.”

Meanwhile, Derry residents are to meet PSNI police chief Hugh Orde to demand the removal of the spy tower at Rosemount Barracks.

Orde agreed to meet Rosemount Anti-Watchtower Group after the barracks was excluded from a list of police stations earmarked for closure in the next year.

Residents have fought a 10-year battle to have the spy gear removed on the basis that it is a breach of civil liberties.

Throughout the peace process, high-powered cameras and listening equipment on the tower remained focussed on the activities of those living under its shadow.

In response to queries from human rights group The Pat Finucane Centre, it was revealed the base costs 275,000 pounds sterling a year to maintain, despite having an average of just 12 public queries per year, making it the most underused police station in the world.

Rosemount Anti-Watchtower Group spokeswoman Marion Hutcheon said: “We don’t want it done under the council or anybody else. We want him to meet with us directly.”

Mrs Hutcheon, a former Sinn Féin councillor, said the residents would give Mr Orde a “cordial” reception.

“This is not about politics in any way, this is about residents only,” she said.

“It has more cameras than the Big Brother television programme. In fact, even before that programme, one of our campaign slogans was ‘Big Brother Is Watching You’,” she added.

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