British helicopter overflights increase
British helicopter overflights increase

Complaints about helicopter overflights in the North of Ireland increased by 46% during the last year, British officials have admitted.

It was claimed that training for British wars in the Middle East was responsible for some of the activity, according to an official report.

Residents in Fermanagh and Tyrone were up in arms about the noise as recently as last November. Local SDLP assembly member Tommy Gallagher ironically said the disturbances had prompted fears of dissident attack.

“People are not happy about this activity and they feel that Northern Ireland had enough of military activity for 30 years,” he said.

“If it is for training for military purposes there are other locations somewhere in England that would serve the purposes just as well.

“Nobody has come out and said exactly what is going on and if it is some kind of army activity we are entitled to know what is happening.”

He said he had been contacted by concerned residents in Trillick, west Tyrone, and Irvinestown, Fermanagh.

There has been a significant increase in airborne military activity across Ireland, despite the move of a squadron of RAF Puma helicopters from Aldegrove RAF base outside Belfast to England.

The report said there has been a significant increase in the number of military complaints, from 85 to 124, a rise of 46%.

“Some nuisance is inevitable, and against a background of suspicion and resentment of helicopter activity in the past, the disruption to the community has to be balanced against a clear training need,” it said.

eirigi general secretary Breandan Mac Cionnaith said the rise in complaints was proof of increased British army activity in the Six Counties.

Mac Cionnaith said: “Whether it’s training for Afghanistan or actual operations in the Six Counties, there is absolutely no excuse for British army helicopter activity in Ireland.

“However, it is significant that the British government’s reviewer of its army’s activities in Ireland attributed only some of the helicopter activity to training for Afghanistan. By omission, what he is saying that the rest of the flights were down to British army operations in Ireland, against Irish citizens.

“eirigi has been saying for a long time that the British war machine is again cranking up its activities in the Six Counties. Last year, former PSNI chief Hugh Orde admitted that at least one regiment - the Special Reconnaissance Regiment - was back on a war footing on Irish soil. Now, Robert Whalley has tacitly admitted that British military aircraft are engaging in operations against Irish citizens.”

Mac Cionnaith continued: “Over the years, British military helicopters have caused great disruption to communities across the Six Counties, particularly in rural areas. These flights should be grounded immediately.

“Neither the people of Ireland nor the people of Afghanistan need the presence of the British war machine in their countries.”

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