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4 December 1997 Edition

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Terrorist activity increases in South Armagh

By Stephen Delaney

The South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee (SAFRC) led by their chairperson, Declan Fearon, Secretary Toni Carragher, Henry McElroy and Peter Carragher attended the talks building in Stormont on Tuesday at the invitation of Gerry Adams. The delegation called for the demilitarisation of South Armagh.

They also met with most other parties at the talks, including Martin Mansergh representing the Dublin government and Direct Ruler Mowlam whom they left ``with no doubt as to the strength of feeling over the increase in British military activity in South Armagh''.

Mowlam ``expressed deep concern and agreed to visit the area for herself in the future,'' they said.

An Phoblacht visited South Armagh on Tuesday and spoke to SAFRC members before they departed for Belfast. Chairperson Declan Fearon told us, ``this committee was reformed in August after residents realised that after the IRA cessation of July, the British Army and RUC were stepping up their actions instead of decreasing them. Besides the huge increase in foot patrols and checkpoints, which in turn makes for more helicopter flights. They are also carrying out extensive building work on some the 19 spytowers that have spoiled these panoramic views for over ten years''.

Committee secretary Toni Carragher continued, ``on an average month since the cessation there has been over 170 flights going in and out of Glassdrummond lookout post. The helicopters usually travel in groups of three; that's 510 helicopters flying over this post alone in one month. When the helicopters fly low or land the livestock in the fields scatter with fear, sheep, cattle and horses have been killed or seriously injured in this way. It has also been proven in tests carried out in lakes near army posts that raw sewage is being directly pumped into them from the bases and watch towers.''

Henry McElroy added ``Farmers who own the land these posts have been built on have never been properly compensated. Something like 400 acres have been commandeered. Another important point to be addressed is that despite the Ministers of Agriculture from both governments trying to prevent the spread of infectious diseases they remain silent when RUC and British troops walk from farm to farm, spreading diseases such as TB and Brucilosis on their foot wear. They regularly cut wiring and break fencing allowing animals to roam freely into other farms and on to main roads''.

Peter Carragher concluded, ``this area is surrounded by nineteen spy posts, four enormous RUC/Army barracks, one of which is the busiest helicopter base in Europe. But I would like someone to explain to me, why in these so called days of so-called peace has the military oppression got worse? Mo Mowlam says in Saturday's Irish News that security has been reduced, well I can only treat that statement with the contempt it deserves''.

In the towns of Crossmaglen and Forkhill the feeling was very similar. One man from County Louth said, ``I am terrified coming across the border now, when the IRA were active I very rarely saw British army patrols. If I did, they didn't have time to harass me, now that's all they seen to have time for''.

A woman living outside Crossmaglen said the area has over 30 houses yet it has no street lighting or foot paths.

She added, ``a lady living here was taken to Daisy Hill hospital in Newry on Saturday evening. Because of recent health cuts the hospital had no doctors on duty, she had to be rushed to Craigavon, over twenty miles away, the lady now has to spend five weeks in hospital because she didn't get immediate treatment. The following day, Sunday, I counted nine helicopters hovering for hours. I would think the money it takes to keep these things flying could be better spent''.

James Quinn a pensioner who lived in Crossmaglen all his life said, ``the RUC and British Army activity is as intense now as it has ever been, worse in fact, and I should know''.

Sinn Fein's Jim McAllister agreed, ``the upgrading of security is massive in this area, you can see for yourself the extensive work being carried out on lookout posts such as on Carrive mountain. It's almost a totally new military base now, added to the increase in helicopter flights, foot patrols and harassment the whole thing is contemptible at any time, but in these days of so called peace the whole thing is atrocious. When Mowlam talks of reduced security I can only say she is a complete liar or hasn't got a clue on what's really happening. I will challenge anybody who has doubts of the increase in military activities in this area to come and see for themselves.''
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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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