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15 April 1999 Edition

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British Army eating concrete?

Are British soldiers eating concrete blocks for lunch and corrugated metal for dinner? The question was being asked in South Armagh this week after the British Army said that 11 pallets containing building material flown into Glassdrummond spypost were ``merely routine re-supply consumables''.

The South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee (SAFRC) and Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin highlighted the issue on 8 April after the material was flown into the Glassdrummond spypost the previous night. The alarm had been raised by SAFRC member

Henry McElroy, whose land borders the post. McElroy has lost numerous sheep from his flock as a result of British chopper activity and was recently advised by his local vet to quit sheep-farming due to the continuing injury and death of animals. He was incensed to see building material flown in for more work on the base.

After the Sinn Féin TD issued a public statement on the building work, the British Army went on record in the Irish News on 9 April, denying that any building work was going on. They described the material as ``routine re-supply consumables'' and said: ``If Mr. O Caoláin wishes to check, there is more being taken out by the helicopters than coming in.''.

On Saturday, 10 April members of the SAFRC visited the Glassdrummond site and saw the pallets containing concrete blocks and slabs and corrugated sheeting. The British Army had

already erected some of the sheeting and reinforced the front of the base with sandbags and camouflage material. SAFRC spokesperson Toni Carragher said the British Army was in ``a permanant state of total denial'' and asked: ``What sort of diet are the Ministry of Defence feeding their cohorts?''

Then, on 14 April in the Irish News, a British Army spokesperson ``conceded'' that maintenance and renovation work was going on at Glassdrummond. Caoimhghín O Caoláin said that the SAFRC had again been vindicated and the British Army caught lying to the public. He called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs David Andrews to visit South Armagh, as he promised local residents he would last October:

``Minister Andrews promised six months ago that he would visit this community whose lives and livelihoods continue to be disrupted daily. I now call on him to fulfill his promise. The running sore of British militarisation in South Armagh has as much potential to destabilise the peace process as the siege of the Garvaghy Road. It must be ended.''
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