A senior Dublin government official has visited a stretch of beach in the North which is being used as a British army training ground.
The Department of Foreign Affairs sent the senior official to Magilligan Strand following discussions that arose from new questions over the British Ministry of Defence’s claim over the four-mile stretch of beach.
The official landed at City of Derry Airport where he was met by Sinn Féin representative Francie Brolly. He was then taken to Magilligan Strand and along the stretch of beach controlled by the British MoD.
Mr Brolly described the meeting as “constructive”. It is expected that the Department of Foreign Affairs will raise the issue with the British government.
“Magilligan Strand and Benone beach stretch for seven miles,” Mr Brolly said.
“For three miles Benone is populated in the summer by sea anglers, surfers and sunbathers. It is a picturesque coastline that it is blighted by the presence of the British army.
“Sinn Féin has raised this issue with both the British and Irish governments and the decision to send a senior Irish government official is hopefully a sign that there will be more pressure put on the British government to act.”
Magilligan Strand entered the history books when it was scene of a Civil Rights march that ended in British paratrooper violence in 1972.
The following week Bloody Sunday took place in nearby Derry.
The British Army has been using the large stretch of beach as a firing range for helicopters.
Mr Brolly added: “Across the sand dunes is the vast British army base at Magilligan. The beach is fenced off and the area used as a British army firing range. On the opposite side of the Lough Greencastle is thriving. Local fishermen cannot fish the area without permission and at night, British army helicopters use the area to train.
“This four-mile stretch is a virtual no-go area. It is the local community that is losing out. We cannot develop tourism or develop the potential of fishing.
“The British government have made commitment on demilitarisation, yet the situation here shows that they need to be fought every inch of the way to ensure that they live up to these commitments.”
The Dublin government official also met with local fisherman Declan McDaid.
Mr McDaid lost a fishing contract because of the continued presence of the British army on the strand.
“This area of the lough, renowned for its population of sea bass, is out of bounds because of the British army’s presence,” he said.
“There is shooting from helicopters, two to three days a week. There’s virtually no access to a four-mile area of beach.”
The British Ministry of Defence has described the beach and nearby Magilligan camp as a vital training centre for British troops.