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19 April 2001 Edition

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Debris falls from helicopter

Sinn Féin representative for Slieve Gullion, Colman Burns, has accused the British Army of ``complete disregard for the safety of people in South Armagh'' following an incident at Carron Hill outside Crossmaglen last Friday night when a piece of tape-covered hardboard fell from a British Army helicopter.

Colman Burns said: ``A helicopter landed on farmland at about 8pm last Friday and a number of soldiers got out. They tramped through the farmland for 20 minutes before the helicopter landed again and picked them up. It then flew low over the farm and a piece of debris was seen to fall from it.

The debris was a piece of hardboard covered with tape.

``There have been several incidents such as this over the years, showing a complete disregard for the safety of people on the ground. That attitude doesn't surprise us, but it is doubly irresponsible at this time of Foot & Mouth precautions. These are soldiers who are back and forward to England, where Foot & Mouth is out of control, yet they can move freely across farms here. They are the single biggest threat to the 'fortress farm' approach to countering the disease. Added to that, debris falling from helicopters could itself be contaminated.

``I would call on people to report all British military activity on their farms to their local Sinn Féin representative. We can then highlight these incidents in the media and with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin.

There must be vigorous protests locally against this clear threat to our farming community.''
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