The North of Ireland is to be used increasingly to train British soldiers before they are sent to conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq, it has been confirmed.
The British Army says training in the Six Counties will become a regular sight in some places. It was responding to complaints from North Antrim Sinn Féin Assemblyman Daithi McKay about “stepped-up” helicopter activity in Rasharkin which is affecting farm animals.
British troops have recently been put on standby in their bases and effectively demobilised following a 34-year campaign to seize and maintain military control in the face of republican resistance.
On Wednesday morning, the so-called ‘Operation Banner’ was replaced by Operation Helvetic, which allows the PSNI to call in the British Army as necessary.
Padraigin Drinan, a civil rights lawyer, has pointed out that, in such a case, the British army will retain powers that are not available in Britain, such as the power to stop and question at random.
Meanwhile, a slightly reduced military force will continue to remain in place to engage in preparation and training activity, it has been confirmed.
Mr McKay said that the British Army had increased training operations in north Antrim considerably in recent months.
He said: “Our office has received complaints about British army activity from the Glens of Antrim, Loughgiel, Glenravel, Dunloy and Rasharkin in recent weeks.
“Given the recent reduction in the number of British troops here, it is deeply concerning that British army activity has actually risen in north Antrim recently rather than declined.
“The British army played a major role in this conflict and their continuing military activity has caused much anger. People here do not want their communities used as military training camps and it’s time the British army acknowledged that and left this area in peace,” he stated.