Demilitarisation or not?
Demilitarisation or not?

The British army is expected to vacate its last hill-top spy post in south Armagh next week amid a controversy over the future of British Army lands in the area.

Sinn Féin assembly member Davy Hyland said he had been told by the British government that soldiers will be leaving the Forkhill watch tower.

Since 1999 a total of 13 towers have been dismantled from the south Armagh skyline.

In April work began on the last five posts at Camlough Mountain, Jonesborough Hill and Croslieve Hill.

“It is obviously welcome that the British government has finally got round to honouring their commitments regarding removing their war apparatus from our community,” Mr Hyland said.

However, the assembly member said future ownership of the land remained in question.

He also said there were concerns the Policing Board and PSNI would attempt to take control of land currently occupied by the British army in the village of Crossmaglen.

“This is unacceptable and Sinn Féin has raised this matter with both governments,” he said.

Roughly ten thousands British soldiers remain stationed in the North of Ireland. In addition, many former British Army bases in soutgh Armagh are to be retained by the PSNI police and/or used for electronic surveillance purposes.

Louth Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan called on the Taoiseach to immediately intervene following the announcement by the British authorities this week that they are going to hold on to land belonging to residents adjoining the British military base in Crossmaglen.

Speaking in the Dail, Deputy Morgan said there was “an urgent need for real progress in removing all huge British military monstrosities from Irish towns and the Taoiseach must show a commitment to achieving this.

“There is also a need for a real commitment from this house to deal with this issue seriously, to show the people of Crossmaglen and other deeply militarised zones that this house will not accept a British Government betrayal of any of its Good Friday Agreement commitments including demilitarisation.”

Local Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy attacked the SDLP for its silence on what he described as a “land grab” by the PSNI.

“We can only assume given their role on the Policing Board that the SDLP endorse this land theft by the PSNI and are simply hoping to ride out any adverse publicity that will arise,” he said.

“It seems that for the SDLP it is better to stay on the side of the securocrats in the PSNI who are behind this plan than side with local nationalists and republicans demanding a complete end to the British occupation in South Armagh.”

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© 2006 Irish Republican News