Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

15 October 1998 Edition

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Demilitarise South Armagh

On 30 September the RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said that ``significant reductions'' in security in the Bessbrook area of South area would take place within the next thirty six hours. Around the same time, the media was informed - and dutifully reported - that the British Army checkpoint at Cloghogue on the main Belfast-Dublin road was to be removed.

``What has happened,'' says Declan Fearon of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee,''is that a few sheets of corrugated have been removed from Cloghogue and a few bollards taken away at Bessbrook. It is a con job.''

South Armagh is the most heavily fortified area in Western Europe. Indeed, there can be few places in the world more militarised. Within a ten mile radius there are seven large RUC/British Army bases and 33 lookout posts. Farmers and residents have reported greater harassment in the last three years than at any time in the future.

Six months after the Good Friday Agreement, nothing has changed, despite the public relations spin. It is time for the political leaders to overrule the securocrats who have been such a malign influence throughout the peace process. Mo Mowlam and Tony Blair must begin to implement what they signed up to. They must begin to demilitarise South Armagh immediately. And they must do what was agreed - they must publish a strategy of demilitarisation.

The decision of Dublin's Minister for Foreign Affairs, David Andrews, to visit South Armagh is to be welcomed. His responsibility is to put pressure on the British government to live up to its part of the Agreement.

An Phoblacht
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