14 July 2005 Edition
Paras Louth incursion
Heavily armed members of the notorious British Parachute Regiment and PSNI were involved in an incursion into County Louth last week where they were confronted by local people.
The incursion began when a British Army Puma helicopter landed in the Rassan area of Louth at 8.40 pm on Thursday night 7 July. Two heavily armed PSNI officers and eight British paratroopers were dropped in a field next to the Dundalk/Derry road three quarters of a mile south of the border. The helicopter then flew towards County Armagh, leaving the 10 members of the crown forces in County Louth.
Within minutes, local residents alerted by the noise gathered at the scene and confronted the British forces. A number of motorists also stopped in the area. There have been reports that some people threw stones at the paras. At this point the Puma helicopter returned, landed in Louth and collected the soldiers and PSNI members. The helicopter then flew further south and hovered over a local house where a British para pointed a rifle at the woman of the house as she came to the door. Others made obscene gestures. The helicopter then returned to its base in Crossmaglen.
Local Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey has reacted angrily to the i ncident: "The border area is being saturated by British security forces who seem hellbent on inciting local communities. Only two weeks ago, a parachute regiment patrol waved a car through a checkpoint outside Crossmaglen and then fired on it. The border communities are living in fear of this maverick behaviour.
"I do not accept that the helicopter was lost or simply off course. It flew over a British base at Drummucknavall, a local school, and the main Castleblayney road. I believe that the soldiers were on British Army business in County Louth, attempting to either place or remove their own surveillance equipment. Irish people are well aware of the Parachute Regiments track record here.
"I met the junior minister for Foreign Affairs, Conor Lenihan only 2 hours after the incursion. His officials have been in contact with me and are waiting for a response from the British security forces. I made it clear to them that I will not accept yet another standard response on this issue. The Parachute Regiment are not welcome in County Louth."