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1 April 1999 Edition

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British army to stay on war footing

by Pádraig MacDabhaid

Despite the provisions within the Good Friday Agreement calling for a demilitarisation of the Six Counties, the British war machine is rebuilding, rearming, and expanding.

Details published in a book by former British paratrooper Tony Geraghty indicate that the British army intends not only to maintain but also to increase its presence in the Six Counties for the foreseeable future.

In The IrishWar: The Military History of a Domestic Conflict, Geraghty reveals: ``Throughout the IRA ceasefires of 1995 and 1997-'98, the British army energetically modernised its armoury of computers. The scale and cost of this programme reflected the army's belief that it would continue to fight an intelligence war in Northern Ireland (sic) for many years ahead.''

The book also states that the British army would maintain ``a complete division of 10,000 troops or more for the foreseeable future''.

Geraghty's claims are backed by a report compiled by the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee (SAFRC), which states: ``Since August 1997, over a 12-month period, £76 million has been spent refurbishing and expanding the too many RUC barracks and British military barracks and outposts in the area. A further £14 million has been allocated for the forthcoming twelve months.''

Indeed, since the IRA cessation of military activity the number of foot patrols and armoured Land Rover activity has greatly increased.

This military saturation is having a detrimental effect on the entire community. The SAFRC document explains that while the British securocrat budget stands at £928 million plus £658 million for the RUC, there are continuing hospital cutbacks and closures, housing lists are growing, and educational programmes are being dramatically cut. It also points out that economic investment in South Armagh is a non-existent.

Crown forces activity in the Newry/South Armagh area has also been attacked by Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy.

Murphy said: ``For 48 hours last week, the British army saturated the Newry/South Armagh area both on the ground and in the air. They have indulged themselves in provocative sectarian behaviour and physical abuse of locals. The British army is once more exhibiting its refusal to recognise the rights of Irish people to live free from `sectarian harassment and intimidation', as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.''
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