3 August 2006 Edition
British climb-down on Crossmaglen land grab
Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy has welcomed a climb-down by the British government over plans by the PSNI to steal land adjacent to Crossmaglen Square. The majority of land owners have now been issued with letters informing them that the plans to 'vest' their land have been abandoned. The U-turn comes after a campaign led by Sinn Féin and the local residents which involved meetings at the highest levels of both the British and Irish governments.
Murphy along with his colleagues Councillors Terry Hearty and Pat Mc Ginn had what Councillor Hearty described as a "frank and straight talking" meeting with British Direct Rule Minister Paul Goggins. "At that meeting we made it very clear as to the anger within the community about the blatant attempt by the PSNI to steal land from people. We also said that on a broader front these actions had cast a doubt about the commitment of demilitarisation and the removal of military type barracks from the area". Reflecting on the meeting with the British minister and the subsequent climb down the Newry and Armagh MP said "During our discussions with the two governments in recent weeks it became very obvious that the PSNI could not construct any rational argument for stealing the land adjacent to Crossmaglen Square currently occupied by the British military. We have raised this matter with both Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern directly and our TDs visited the area and raised the issue in the Dáil" and he continued "I have now been informed by the British government that letters are to be issued to the majority of land owners informing them that the PSNI attempt to steal their land has been abandoned. It is clear that this decision has been taken by the British government after the representations we have made and conflicts with the stated intentions of the Policing Board and PSNI. There remains an issue of land belonging to the bakery which the PSNI are still insisting on stealing a portion of, and we will be in contact with the land owners in that case to discuss our next move.