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28 February 2002 Edition

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Increased patrols and harassment

Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry/Armagh, Conor Murphy, has received numerous complaints about the increased level of British Army and PSNI activity in the South Armagh area.

"In recent weeks there has been an increased British military presence in South Armagh," he said. "People have complained to me that on Saturday and Sunday 23 and 24 February, roadblocks were set up by members of the PSNI and British Army on every road leading into Forkhill. This was backed up by helicopters flying low overhead.

"On Tuesday 19 February, a young family suffered a terrifying experience when a helicopter swooped low continuously over their car late at night on the Tullydonnell Road.

"We are also receiving information that the material removed from the post on Sturgan mountain has been transferred to a nearby post and that the British Army are in fact rebuilding in this area.

"South Armagh is the most heavily fortified area in the North of Ireland. People living here have long since given up hope of the British Army fulfilling their promises on demilitarisation. A credible start must be made to dismantling the British Army presence to convince the people of this area of the benefits of the Peace Process."

And Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone Assembly member Gerry McHugh has accused the RIR of harassment after he was detained for 30 minutes on Monday last as he returned from a public meeting in Cookstown.

"The attitude and demeanour of the RIR who detained me was a disgrace," said McHugh. "For nearly 30 minutes I was treated with absolute contempt. I presented my credentials as an elected Assembly member for the area yet was treated with total disrespect. I suspect that the RIR would not treat an elected representative of any other political party in the same manner.

"In the last number of months, local RIR have repeatedly stopped and detained nationalists without reason. Sinn Féin colleagues throughout the Six Counties have also reported an increase in the harassment of their constituents by the RIR."

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