A Sinn Fein councillor is calling on the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) to pack up and leave Magilligan base in the northwest of county Derry to let residents live in peace.
Councillor Paddy Butcher made the call after residents were woken from their sleep before 6am on Saturday by the terrifying sound of mortars and gun fire from the British Army’s training range.
One resident said: “I was woken by this loud bang. I thought there was someone banging on the door with a post it was so loud. It lasted for about three quarters of an hour, off and on from quarter to six to 6.25am. The house vibrated with the last mortar. It was awful. Even friends of mine who live up near the railway station heard it. I think it is a bit rich for this to be happening at this time of the morning.”
Another resident about a mile and a half from the range described the noise as “unbelievable”.
“We actually thought people were breaking into the house there was so much noise. The whole house was vibrating. There’s just no need for that at that time on a Saturday morning.”
A spokesperson for the MoD said training was normally restricted to between 7am and 11pm.
The MoD spokesperson said: “We apologise if anyone was inconvenienced by essential pre-deployment validation training at Magilligan ranges. As you know, personnel based in Northern Ireland support overseas operations and require to be fully trained and accredited with a range of equipment and tasks before deploying. Every effort is made to keep disruption to a minimum. However training has to take place under a wide variety of conditions and timings.”
Cllr Butcher said he is fed up with the activities residents are forced to live with.
“Training exercises are so frequent you run the risk of almost becoming immune to them, which is an awful thing to even consider on a blue flag beach in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There was a prolonged spell of local complaints last year about dangers of low flying exercises and sustained night manoeuvres. Local people couldn’t sleep at night and children were terrified. As is usually the case, we get the bland statements from the MoD, but in practice they just ignore our complaints and do as they please.
“This weekend’s exercise was just about as bad as it gets. We will again be demanding a statement from the MoD as to what is their protocol for exercises in terms of public disturbance during unsocial hours and how can they possibly justify this.
“It’s time they followed the example of their colleagues from Shackleton and left us in peace to enjoy the area we live in and develop a tourism industry in one of the most beautiful areas of the world.”
Cllr Butcher added: “The war in Ireland is over and it’s about time the MoD told their staff in Magilligan that.”