9 May 2002 Edition

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Hand over Lisanelly base

Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty said that in light of the announcement by the British government to hand over Long Kesh, Crumlin Road jails and Malone and Ebrington Barracks to the Executive as a means of generating public funding, there is nothing now standing in the way of transferring the massive Lisanelly British Army installation in Omagh in a similar way.

"The transfer to the Executive of this 150-acre site, which is presently occupied by a massive British military installation, would not only create a massive amount of revenue for the public purse if it was sold to the private sector," said the West Tyrone MP. "But it would also be an ideal location for the establishment of a university campus. Whatever the potential uses of this site, it is obvious that it would be better utilised than at present and would be the key to unlocking the potential for the social and economic regeneration of Omagh and District.

"In a meeting with British Secretary of State John Reid in the spring of last year, a Sinn Féin delegation urged John Reid to return this land so that it could benefit the people of Omagh. We pointed out that this would be in line with the commitments on demilitarisation made by the British government under the Good Friday Agreement.

"John Reid response was negative at this time and in recent times we have witnessed a massive increase in helicopter and military activity emanating from this base. There is also widespread and disturbing speculation locally that rather than scaling down or closing the Lisanelly base, the British government is intent on upgrading it to be one of its main NATO bases.

"I am now publicly calling on the British government to honour its commitments on demilitarisation in this area and hand this site back to the people of Omagh, for the benefit of the people of Omagh."

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