25 October 2007 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

Pressure mounts for transfer of British military sites


Pressure is mounting on the British Government over the demand for the free transfer of vacated MoD Military sites at Lisanelly and St Lucia in Omagh, County Tyrone to the Six County Executive. Last week, Sinn Féin Vice President, and West Tyrone MP, Pat Doherty held a round of meetings with Westminster MPs and the British government to press the case for the sites to be used for the socio-economic regeneration of the area.
A clear statement in the 2003 joint declaration issued by the British and Irish governments said that vacated military sites ‘might be made available’ to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minster’s Reinvestment and Reform Initiative ‘to ensure that the process of normalisation generates a new public asset base for those communities most directly affected by the security arrangements to date’. In a series of meetings across the political spectrum, Mr Doherty pointed out the need to follow through on this ‘peace dividend contribution’, rather than selling off sites to the private sector.
A number of options for the 155 acre sites of Lisanelly and St Lucia in Omagh have been discussed in terms of positive regeneration and redevelopment purposes, he said. During the Westminster lobby, Mr Doherty gained positive responses in meetings which included back bench Labour MPs, members of the parliamentary scrutiny committee dealing with the north of Ireland, the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State, and the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on the six counties.
And British Defence Secretary of State Des Browne told the Sinn Féin Vice President that he was aware of the issues in relation to the sites, and that the matter was on the Prime Minister’s desk.
As a result of one of the meetings, Owen Paterson MP, the Conservative shadow secretary of state, agreed to subsequently visit the military site at Omagh and meet local stakeholders from the political, community, education and business sector as part of a fact finding trip to explore the issues and potential regeneration of Lisanelly and St Lucia.
Following the Queens’ speech at the beginning of November, which will outline the future legislative programme of the government, Sinn Féin will be continuing to put pressure on the relevant British government ministries – including the MoD and the Treasury – to ensure that the promises made in 2003 are adhered to, and that the opportunity to transform these former military bases into positive purposes, to benefit the whole community, is not squandered.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1