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18 October 2001 Edition

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South Armagh to take on choppers in Europe

The South Armagh Farmers & Residents Committee (SAFRC) is considering taking legal action against the British government and Ministry of Defence following a landmark ruling in the European Court of Human Rights.

The court ruled that night flights into Heathrow Airport in London could be banned, following an action taken by anti-noise campaigners who live adjacent to the airport. Residents are entitled to sleep, undisturbed by aircraft noise between the hours of 11.30pm and 6am, the court decided.

The London residents had claimed that noise generated by 16 scheduled night flights infringed on their quality of life and therefore violated their entitlements under the new Human Rights Act.

The judges in Strasbourg said that the British government and the airline industry had failed to prove that the economic benefits from such flights justified the nuisance to millions of Londoners.

John Stewart, chairperson of the anti-noise group 'Hacan Clear Skies', said "this is great news for the tens of thousands of people living under the flight paths and is a tremendous victory for a small group that has successfully taken the British government to Court and won".

Speculation has now mounted that residents in similar situations, who have previously had difficulty in advancing their objections, may now use this case as a precedent in the European courts.

SAFRC says it is seriously considering taking a similar case, given the number of military flights in South Armagh that are of no economic value (if not an economic liability) and cause serious disturbance to residents.

The committee is seeking a ban on flying over the area between 6pm and 10am every night and will present a letter of request to the Newry & Mourne District Council on Monday morning, together with a 32-page dossier on the ruling in the European Court of Human Rights. It hopes the council will provide SAFRC with both legal and financial support to pursue the case.

SAFRC, which was formed in September 1997, has campaigned relentlessly for demilitarisation throughout South Armagh, the withdrawal of British troops and the dismantling of all Spy Posts and fortifications in the area. The lack of such measures has figured greatly in the lack of economic development in the area, the tourist industry and the business and farming community, in general, it says.

Of late, the organisation says it has received numerous complaints from residents throughout the South Armagh area about day and night-time flights. In particular, concern has focussed on the amount of helicopters ferrying cargo from Bessbrook military barracks to the bases and joint British Army/RUC barracks in Crossmaglen and Forkhill.

It is believed that building supplies are being brought into the bases, as construction work and refurbishment is visible.


Louth border incursion



Louth County Councillor Arthur Morgan, has reacted angrily to local reports that British Army helicopters entered the Hackballcross area of County Louth this morning. This follows an incursion of a British foot patrol in August of this year.

Councillor Morgan has called on the government to raise this issue immediately with the British government.

"The incursion occurred at 9.30 this morning," said Morgan. "Local people immediately contacted my office and I in turn requested that my colleague Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD raise the issue with Brian Cowen. This has since happened.

"It is unacceptable that the British Army continues to patrol nationalist areas of the Six Counties. To cross the border is simply a disgrace. The government must stop accepting British excuses of map reading errors. They must demand that Britain stop this practice."

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