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12 September 2002 Edition

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Prisoners in their own home

Sinn Féin Councillors Terry Hearty and Colman Burns were called out to visit the home of a very distressed family in Crossmaglen late on Tuesday night, 3 September, after the house was 'buzzed' by British Army helicopters.

The family, made up of a mother, son and elderly grandmother over 80 years of age, live beside Crossmaglen barracks. "They are very upset because of the constant harassment of helicopter activity using the barracks," said the councillors. "On this occasion, the family washing, hung out on the clothesline, had been blown across the roofs of several houses by helicopters coming in to land inside the barracks. Garden furniture was lifted like a tornado whirlwind and smashed against the wall by the force of the helicopter blades."

At night a strong beam of light shines constantly through a bedroom window of the house from the barracks. Despite heavy curtains, the strong light still penetrates into the bedroom, making it practically impossible for anyone to sleep. "The residents in the house have complained to us they feel like prisoners in their own home," said the Sinn Féin representatives.

"Residents living near the barracks have complained in vain for years about this type of harassment. The Peace Process gave them some hope that this problem could be resolved. However their hopes have been dashed and they have experienced no benefit whatsoever during the years of ceasefires holding intact."

"In fact there has been an increase in British Army activity throughout the South Armagh area. Just this week we have also received complaints from a number of farmers that the British Army still patrol through infected farmlands. British Army officers ignored warnings from local farmers about the danger of spreading Brucellosis and TB as they unsuccessfully attempted to stop soldiers walking from one farmland to another.

"Several months ago during a meeting in Crossmaglen we urged Minister Brid Rodgers to ensure that the British Army should be made comply with the regulations set by her department. Unfortunately, to date she appears to have been unable to do so."
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An Phoblacht
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