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6 September 2000 Edition

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Sinn Féin calls for halt to British Army HQ expansion

BY CAÍTLIN DOHERTY

Demilitarisation may be a popular tune in public, but behind the scenes the British government is set yet again to expand British Army installations and barracks in the Six Counties.

The latest British military development plans focus on the Thiepval Barracks Headquarters of the British Army in Lisburn, already one of the largest British military installations in Ireland. Thiepval has been regularly expanded in recent years, despite the peace process and provisions for demilitarisation enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. The development plans include the construction of a British Army housing development off Magheralave Road and Kirkwoods Road. The plans are only the first phase of a vast development plan. Environment minister, Ulster Unionist Sam Foster, has already approved plans for the housing development.

Sinn Féin Lisburn Borough Councillor Paul Butler is calling for an immediate halt to this latest expansion. ``Such plans expose the truth about British government plans to scale down its military presence in Ireland,'' he said. ``If the government was serious about removing the visible signs of its military installations, then it should immediately put a stop to any new development at Thievpal.''

The decision to press ahead for planning approval comes despite strong opposition from residents. The chairperson of the local residents' association has said people in the area are angry at the decision and are now planning to push ahead with a series of legal challenges based on various human rights considerations.

``I will be supporting residents in their campaign to stop this development going ahead. As part of the campaign to get a halt to these houses I will be asking Gerry Adams to take this issue up with the British government,'' said Paul Butler.

``This is totally contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Agreement. What we have with the establishment of the institutions provided for in the Agreement is an opportunity to bring about a peaceful and democratic resolution of the conflict in our country. Along with this though must come the start of the end to military installations like Thievpal Barracks. A start to that process should be the scrapping of plans to build any more houses there.''

Sinn Féin is calling for all parties represented on Lisburn Borough Council to support the residents of North Lisburn.
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