Campaign to Retain Security
In response to the most recent sop to terrorists - demiliarisation in South Armagh we must state our most outright rejection. The further appeasement of terrorism is an affront to not only democracy but the memory of our loved ones. For those who even contemplate accepting this deal we remind them that if they do they will no longer be fit to be called democrats. If they support this deal they will have thrown in their lot with the terrorists. As for the British and Irish governments who proposed and have already agreed to this they can no longer be judged to be democratic states. They have purposefully excluded peaceful democratically elected parties and are sponsoring terrorists. They use the threat of terrorism to force the majority to accept the inclusion of terrorists in government.
However after a recent conference on Human Rights, after listening to the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and other Human Rights Organisations it is clear that there are international standards to which governments must adhere. The current government has abdicated many of these obligations of governments. For example the duty to protect life will be broken if they remove effective security presence from our area. We have the right to expect the protection of our government, and effective present police force, the freedom and security to live work and socialise where we please. It is a basic human right to live free from fear and intimidation and it is a government's duty to secure these rights by removing the terrorist threat by effective security measures. If they abdicate their responsibility for political expediency we will be forced to take them up under the European convention on Human Rights.
The issue of removing watchtowers and restricting helicopter flights is a clear sop to the IRA of South Armagh. As victims we would like to see normalisation and the removal of the army in South Armagh. We would like to see the removal of the Irish Republican Army and the Real Irish Republican Army and the Continuity Irish Republican Army from the area. We would like to see an end to their watching, surveillance targeting and attacks. We would like to see the police in panda cars travelling the streets of our area, not in helicopters. We would like to see community policing tackling the smuggling, drugs, racketeering and the fraud being carried our by South Armagh farmers and residents. Our aim is to live in a just and equal society where we don't have to fear our neighbours. This is a vision we share with many Catholics in the area too whose communities are being terrorised by republicans, whose children are being corrupted by drugs smuggled by the terrorists. It is these people who cannot speak out because of the fear of the local godfathers who we must speak up for.
Sadly due to the intransigence of the terrorists who are indeed engaged in a continual low-intensity conflict in our area we cannot see further appeasement as the answer. Indeed even this issue has demonstrated that when concessions are not produced quickly enough there are those who are willing to resort to violence. Four people have been arrested after police stopped a bus leaving the South Armagh area. The four, two of them juveniles and all from Belfast, were detained over suspected public order offences, believed to be connected to earlier disturbances. Twenty-one police officers and three soldiers were injured when Republican protestors attacked two security force watchtowers close to the South Armagh border and broke into the Crossmaglen police station. Two of the injured officers were airlifted to hospital with head injuries after being attacked with petrol bombs, iron bars, bottles and fireworks. A soldier suffered burn injuries when the protesters filled a large oil drum with petrol and set it alight.
Nine officers were injured at the Creevekeeran military post when clashes broke out after the protestors attempted to cut through perimeter wire and attacked the police. One hundred protestors were involved in the attacks and police discharged two plastic baton rounds. Further clashes then developed at the Drummackaval post where ten officers were injured. The crowd later attacked the Crossmaglen police station breaching the base gate. Petrol bombs were also thrown. Police chiefs have said the violence was orchestrated and the protestors were intent on violence. The violence followed a protest by members of young Sinn Féin at what they claim are "token measures on demilitarisation". Indeed three men, including one of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee’s founding members, Peter Carragher were later arrested. The other two persons were Crossmaglen men Philip O'Rourke and Jim Cleary. These arrests were in connection with the violent attacks upon the army watchtowers in the South Armagh area in December.
In recent months republicans have stepped up their campaign to remove these vital installations. Numerous instances of trespass, vandalism and criminal damage have been allowed to go unpunished, as the rule of law clearly has broken down in this part of the United kingdom.
With the continuing activity of the PIRA and their various flags of convenience it is madness to reduce the level of security. If Republicans can bomb London then it is clear that South Armagh is much more likely to be a target if and when they want. As a group of victims we represent the cost the previous governments failed security policies. Our loved ones were left without protection as the government pandered to the republicans in previous cease-fires. History has spelt out the governments' mistakes of the past in the blood of our loved ones.
It was only one Prime Minister who showed the resolve and the ability to tackle terrorism and we would congratulate Margaret Thatcher for her stance on criminalisation and no political status. Her principled stand against terrorism both within prison and without during the hunger strikes is an inspiration to us all. Her other legacy to the security and protection of the minority in South Armagh was the policy of building watchtowers.
In order to explain the importance of these installations it is necessary to look at the victims. In the area of South Armagh the success of the terrorists who operated in a virtual safe haven has been measured in the number of atrocities they committed.
If there had been more watch towers RUC men Breen and Buchanan would still be alive as it was in dead group beyond the view of watch towers that terrorists struck. RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen was the highest-ranking member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to be killed by the IRA. This respected officer commanded most of south Armagh, and his colleague Supt Bob Buchanan left their Newry headquarters for a security situation meeting with Gardai in the Irish Republic border town of Dundalk. The cruel irony was that these very men were responsible for security in the South Armagh area, and had both been advocates of increased security including more watch-towers.
In the afternoon of 20th March 1989, as they drove an unmarked Vauxhall Cavalier back across the border near Jonesborough, the IRA ambushed them with a carefully laid trap. Five terrorists using a heavy machine gun riddled the officer’s car. Supt. Buchanan, a father of two, died at the wheel of the unmarked car as he attempted to put it into reverse. Chief Supt Breen, who also had two children, was found dead on the roadside. The IRA used the cover of the dead ground, hidden from the gaze of the watchtowers to rifle the dead men’s’ pockets stealing vital security documents from the car. Both men had been unarmed as they had left their weapons behind before leaving for Dundalk. As this was a top secret meeting their plans could only have been passed to the IRA death squad by a member of the Gardai. This and other murders which could have been avoided by better border security are now being investigated by International Judge Mr Justice Peter Corey. The level of murders commissioned by gangs who had the free-run of the area was the real reason why towers were and are necessary.
Other security measures like the Control zone along the border at Cloghogue were necessitated because of the actions of armed terrorists and in particular the murder of Lord Justice Gibson and his wife, and also the Hanna family in July 1988.
The fact that terrorist can act with impunity and with such freedom and frequency in an area ought to be an affront to any democratic government. The fact that there are areas of their jurisdiction where their security forces cannot, without a massive security operation, patrol is also an affront. In international law governments have a duty of care to their citizens and are obliged to ensure that protection under the law is provided equally to all. This was not adhered to along the border as was demonstrated by an incident where an IRA gang led by the 'Surgeon' kidnapped 5 prison officers and 1 policeman Louis Robinson who they later interrogated and murdered in September 1990. The 42 year old married man had been on extended sick leave and was still murdered despite this and a multitude of pleas from family, churchmen and politicians on both sides of the community. The need for effective monitoring and patrolling of the border to ensure such human rights abuses are not repeated mean that the watchtower must stay. As Toby Harden says in his book Bandit Country "they limit severely Tom Murphy's capacity to mount attacks in much of his domain".
The Government has responsibility of limiting the PROVOS freedom of movement and by so doing protecting the lives of local farmers and residents. The desperate security situation in the area, which continues to this day, was best demonstrated prior to and during the building of the watchtowers. In order to build these on British soil some of the largest mobilisations since D-Day entitled Operation Condor and Operation Magistrate were needed to facilitate the movement of material and men into the area. In the 10 weeks it took to build the base at Crossmaglen there were 5 IRA attacks and indeed the engineers sustained casualties in a mortar attack. The need for these installations was clear after an IRA attack upon an Observation Post at Drummuckavall in 1974 when a 100lb bomb killed Corporal Dennis Leack and Marine John Southern. The need for the towers has been proven by the deaths in the area, and their existence and success has been measurable in the reduction in fatalities in the area. If they are removed there is no doubt that the Republican movement would make the return of their freedom to operate in the murder of innocent victims.
As the government prostitutes itself at the behest of terrorists we call upon them and society in general to remember to men who gave their lives building and manning these towers. To remove these towers to placate the enemy would be a disgrace to the memory of these young British Soldiers who were killed. The governments ought to be putting their memory and the feelings of their families first, rather than the wish-lists of terrorists. For years the IRA have been trying to destroy these vital outposts with gun and bomb, now they have succeeded with pen and persuasion. While the cowards of the IRA could not defeat the British army their apologists have defeated the weak and degenerate British Government. Blair and his assorted misfits should be ashamed to assume the title British government, such dealings in any other country would be defined as treason. In is therefore in memory of the gallant British Soldiers, who were so callously sacrificed by the government; and in testimony to the civilian builders who were targeted in atrocities like Teebane, that we call on the Governments and our own politicians to reverse this policy of appeasement.
As the government in its scramble to appease the terrorists has conveniently forgotten the human cost of building and maintaining the watchtowers we wish to remind them. As they pander to the wishes of those who killed their young soldiers we say to the families thus bereaved we remember you. To those young men who died in this area protecting the lives and liberties of fellow British citizens against political terrorism of Sinn Fein/IRA we place on record our gratitude.
For in 1986 Major Andrew French and RUC Constables William Laurence Smyth and David Leslie McBride were killed by a booby-trap bomb as they were leading a patrol aimed at securing the watchtower at Glasdrumman which was being built. Major French from Suffolk was 35 and had been awarded the MBE in 1980. Constable McBride was 27 and from Enniskillen while his colleague Constable Smyth, a Catholic and talented GAA player who was banned after joining the RUC was only 25 and from Cloughey.
A number of weeks later on 9th July 1986 two soldiers were murdered by a 1,000lb bomb as they protected colleagues who were building the watchtower. Carl Davies of the Royal Anglican Regiment was 24 married to a local women with one child he was killed a week before the birth of their second. His colleague Mitchell Bertram from Tyne and Wear was 23 and single. It is believed that they were murdered by a gang including Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley who attacked the watchtower four times before blowing themselves up in 1988. Another life was lost as the army refurbished the watchtowers in May1989, when Corporal Russell McGonigle was murdered as he secured a road along which army vehicles could travel. He left a wife and two young sons, as the IRA demonstrated the danger there was in protecting the roads of South Armagh.
This murder along with multiple attacks on army and police vehicles has led to a situation where the security forces will not travel the roads of south Armagh. It takes huge Operation months in the planning and with Battalions to secure the areas in order for the police and army to travel along the roads to certain area. If under the current deal Helicopter flights are banned then how will the security forces maintain a presence on the ground and respond to the ongoing attacks upon isolated protestant communities in the area.
The effect of the watchtowers in inhibiting terrorist activity can be easily measured by the IRA's response to them. If they were not useful they would not be attacked, however the number of mortar and other attacks in themselves justify the watchtowers. As one Brigadier says 'The towers were designed principally to defend the soldiers in Forkhill and Crossmaglen who are in a very exposed position". However over the years the role and potential of the towers developed and have become an integral part of not only anti-terrorist operations but also against smuggling and all manner of criminality engaged in by the Republican movement in South Armagh.
The sheer risk to security force lives was demonstrated in May 1992 when a proxy bomb killed Fusilier Andrew Grundy as he attempted to warn colleagues in Cloghogue base at Killeen.
In October 1990 Ranger Cyril Smith was also killed as the IRA launched its human bomb attack on the same checkpoint. In what was one of the worst human rights abuses in the Troubles the use of human bombs claimed the lives of five soldiers and a civilian Patsy Gillespie at Coshquin on the same night. We call upon the governments to fulfil their obligations by continuing the lives and liberties of their citizens against the continuing terrorist threat. And to our politicians who continue to consider this deal to remember the victims especially those who died trying to build and maintain these towers. Finally the results of the removal of the towers and air-support would be too terrible to contemplate for the ordinary law abiding South Armagh farmers and residents.
FAIR along with other victims groups which represent border communities have united to oppose the latest act of appeasement which will see them stripped of the last vestige of protection. At the same time these areas have seen an escalation in terrorist activity. A legal fund has also been launched to fund efforts to challenge the latest deal through the courts as a clear breach of Human Rights.
HELP US TELL THE TRUTH