27 March 2003 Edition
British soldiers confronted in South Armagh
Sinn Féin demilitarisation campaigners are pictured confronting British soldiers on patrol in south Armagh last Sunday. Sinn Féin Councillor Packie McDonald, says the British Army were seen digging in around the Slieve Gullion Courtyard in south Armagh last weekend. On Sunday, helicopters landed large numbers of troops into the area. Members of the local Sinn Féin Demilitarisation Committee then confronted British soldiers on patrol.
"This invasion of one of the natural beauty spots in this area is totally unacceptable to residents and visitors alike," said McDonald. " The British Army have maintained an unwanted presence in this area for many years. The British government needs to fulfil its obligations under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Recent promises of a rolling programme to complete demilitarisation in this area have now rolled to a halt."
Community in fear following fatal air accidents
Increased British Army military activity in the Jonesboro area of South Armagh has fuelled fear and tension within the community because of fatal air accidents involving helicopters in Iraq.
"During the recent round of talks, speculation has mounted that the British government would at last implement immediately a programme of demilitarisation in areas such as south Armagh," said Assembly member Conor Murphy. "However, events on the ground have left people still sceptical of this ever happening. During the past weekend, residents have reported increased helicopter activity in the area. This has led to a rise in fear and tension within the community because of the fatal air crashes happening during the first two days of attacks on Iraq. Just one year ago, on St. Patrick's Day, a British Army helicopter crashed into a hilltop post in Jonesboro area. People are now more fearful that this fleet of helicopters is not airworthy and that their lives are in constant danger.
"South Armagh remains the most heavily fortified area in the north of Ireland. People living here have long since given up hope of the British Army fulfilling their promises on demilitarisation. There is a common belief that this area is now being used as a training ground by the British Army.
"Sinn Féin will continue to urge the British government for the immediate demilitarisation of south Armagh and other areas throughout the North."
British Army harass Clones Council Chair
Councillor Pat Treanor, Cathaoirleach of Clones Town Council, was stopped and detained by British military personnel on Monday evening last at approximately 8.15pm in what Sinn Féin has called a deliberate attempt by the British Army to frustrate the work of an elected representative. The councillor was driving back from a meeting in Cavan and was a mile from Clones at the time of the incident.
Pat Treanor has since explained that he was held for half an hour while his car was searched inside and out. "These people know who I am, they know I am the Chairperson of Clones Town Council. The verbal abuse that was hurled at me indicated that they wanted to provoke me. Their actions in detaining me prove again that the role of the British Army in Ireland is to exert dominance over the local population.
"I am fortunate in that in my role as a local elected representative I am in a position to highlight my experience. Others cannot do so for fear that the harassment will escalate. The days of the British Army in Ireland must come to an end. They are not welcome and their actions do nothing to enhance the peace process," said Treanor.