Submission to the International Monitoring Committee
The Independent Monitoring Commission’s report confirmed the worst fears of many in Northern Ireland from all communities, but most especially the victims. It has confirmed that the Provisional IRA have not gone away, that they continue to further their political agenda using violence.
As a group we share the IMC’s objective namely to promote the transition to a peaceful society, and fully support its guiding principles. We as a group feel democracy and terrorism cannot coexist and the principles that are applied internationally in regard of terrorism must equally be applied to Northern Ireland. There exists a body of international standards, principles and legislation which must be applied here and its protections afforded to the people of this part of the United Kingdom. Often the stability and continuance of the ‘peace process’ has been used as an excuse to allow the two governments to turn a blind eye to terrorism. Indeed one Secretary of State described a particularly cruel terrorist murder as ‘house-keeping’. Such attitudes must end and the Nelson’s eye approach to violence must be discontinued.
To that end we are satisfied with the creation of the IMC; however as a victims group we feel that what is gained by the international input into the Commission in terms of impartiality and professionalism must be balanced with local experience and knowledge. We feel that the best people to monitor violence are the victims themselves. As people who have often lost loved ones or been injured whilst defending democracy and law and order, many of our members retain the skills and dedication to guide this work. Living and working in the local areas often most blighted by terrorism they offer first hand insight into the minds and operations of terrorists and their criminal programmes.
The blurring of distinctions between terrorist groups, their political representatives and community front organisations has led to the legitimisation of terrorism and its insidious infiltration of all aspects of life in Northern Ireland. From the Executive of our government to the community networks and funders that victims’ groups rely on for assistance, terrorists and their apologists have been a negative malevolent presence. They have remained untouchable; with the state allowing both their infiltration and criminality to go on checked becoming now a near unbreakable strangle hold on the both communities.
The Tactical Use of Armed Straggle strategy of republicanism has been followed in a crude manner by so-called loyalist terror groups. Both now use a low level violence through for example front organisations. These groups include ‘residents’ groups which oppose the loyal orders as they attempt to exercise their right to freedom of assembly. Like the far right groups in England they are hate parties which thrive in a self perpetuating cycle of conflict. Portraying themselves as the defenders of their community they ferment conflict which like a self fulfilling prophecy allows them to intervene speaking for and ‘defending’ their community. They thrive on the ensuing sectarian uncertainty and strife. It justifies the continuance of their military organisations, ensuring recruitment of a new generation of young impressionable men. Other fronts include ex-prisoners and anti-state ‘victims’ groups, whose aim is, alongside both complicit and compliant human rights organisations, to attack the state and limit its use of proactive anti-terrorist measures.
Crime too has developed from being a means to an end to the end in itself. The vast criminal empires buttressed by drugs, extortion and rackets, are themselves justification enough to retain weapons and paramilitary structures. Terror godfathers are unwilling to allow the advantages they have on ‘ordinary’ criminals to evaporate. One local wit has summed it up well when talking about loyalist groups “ They once said their only crime was loyalty … Now their only loyalty is crime!”. We look to South Africa as a model where illegal weaponry and paramilitary structures were not removed and have been major factors in the descent into crime on an unprecedented level.
Areas like South Armagh have always been especially difficult areas to police and secure, our comments are no reflection on the brave men and women of the security forces who gave and give so much to do just that. However the government has never given our people the same level of protection and security as other British citizens living in other parts of the United Kingdom. This we feel is a breach of their obligations under Article2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and are currently seeking remedy. This policy continues as the area remains a No-Go area for the police, terror and its related criminality thrive with the added dimension of cross border illegal activities. PIRA have developed South Armagh as an area of their control it is a terrorist pilot project, one area where they have the upper hand. If we are to create a peaceful, democratic, law-abiding society in Northern Ireland then Bandit Country must be broken.
In short we request that the IMC concentrate on this area as the case-study of violence, it is the extreme case and if rectified will provide a model for the rest of the country. It is the cock-pit of crime in the province and has been allowed to develop unchecked. We offer it as a challenge and an obligation to the IMC. Policing has broken down due to a lack of resources and the political will to enforce the law against the terrorist godfathers of South Armagh. The level of violence and crime allowed to go unchecked in our area and the continuing intimidation of the protestant community makes a mockery of the peace process.
We will place ourselves at the disposal of the IMC if a process for co-operation can be agreed. Our preliminary meeting with the IMC was both frank and constructive, both parties had a clearer view of what the other could and would do and provided a foundation on which to build a productive relationship. We look forward to further meetings and practical input to further the shared aim of a peaceful lawful democratic society. Further to our meeting we have complied a report into the issue of the removal of security from the border areas of the province. As a group based in South Armagh representing those who were murdered, bereaved, injured and terrorised as a result of past security deficiencies in the area we are adamant that security must be kept. The group has spearheaded a ‘Campaign to Retain Security’ in South Armagh and in the country as a whole. Political parties and community leaders have supported us and the case has been put both in Westminster, Brussels and Washington. Legal advice has been sought and a litigation strategy prepared to fight any moves to strip security form the area as part of further political appeasement of terrorism.
Having framed our case in terms of a states obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the relevant jurisprudence which places positive obligations on the state to protect the lives of its citizens. As a group we contend that the present level of security in the form of police and military support is inadequate to fulfil that obligation. We are also mindful of the necessity of security installations, apparatus, structures, intelligence, policy and resources to support men on the ground and to develop a holistic approach to security and the maintenance of law and order. To that end we call for the restoration of the per-1995 levels of security in South Armagh.
In the body of the report we will outline the background of violence in South Armagh and the necessity of security. The sacrifices made to put the security installation in place and their proven record of success. Then details of the background to and an audit of the destruction of security in Northern Ireland. The report will then outline the continuing need for and return of such measures both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
Language like many things in Northern Ireland has become the latest battle ground, with words the current casualties of war. Government wordsmiths have fired their first salvos with the most damage inflicted upon society by ‘inclusion’, ‘decommissioning’, ‘implementation’ and others contained in the numerous documentary assaults made during the ‘peace process’. The words ‘peace’ and ‘ceasefire’ have been amongst the most maimed terms their meanings mutilated in the pursuit of political ends. Words have been the casualties as much as the cause with constructive ambiguity laying them like mines to hurt and disrupt any who wish to make progress through the political landscape of Northern Ireland. The latest word to be butchered by ambiguity is ‘normalisation’ the term chosen by the two governments to describe the policy of stripping security from areas like South Armagh at the demand of Sinn Fein/IRA. . For years the IRA have been trying to destroy these vital outposts with gun and bomb, now they have succeeded with pen and persuasion. Indeed the Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has also been complicit in this deceit when in January 2000 at a meeting with Sir Ronnie Flannigan at RUC Headquarters he asked if security installations could be removed in South Armagh.
As a group we represent ordinary people whose vocabulary is plain and simple but their message load and powerful. What we say is sadly what we see on a daily basis as residents of South Armagh, and victims of the violence that has marred our beautiful land for so long. We speak as people whose lives have been impacted by the security measures taken by respective British Governments. But we are also mindful of the price we had to pay before such measures were taken. For years our people their churchmen and politicians pleaded for protection and were ignored. Our children buried their fathers and wives walked behind the coffins of their husbands while the world looked on. The unique security measures we face in South Armagh are a small price to pay to ensure those days do not return. We would remind you and all who offer opinion on the issue of the removal of such security that if you are mistaken we will pay for your mistakes with our lives!
A COMMUNITY LEFT DEFENCELESS
The history of violence in South Armagh and right along the border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is an indictment of the British and Irish governments penned in the blood of their citizens. The montage above symbolises the daily violence that was visited upon our community, the material relates primarily to the Kingsmill Massacre. This was doubtless the most callous atrocity of the troubles committed during a period of ceasefire by the Provisional IRA using the cover name of a Republican dissident group. On that dark January evening in 1976 the sectarian murder campaign of the PIRA reached its bloody climax as a factory workers bus was stopped. The occupants eleven Protestants and one Roman Catholic who was allowed to escape, were ordered from the bus and the eleven defenceless men lined up and murdered in cold blood, only one survived.
The increase in security ordered by the then Secretary of State Merlyn Rees came too late for these men and others like those murdered in Tullyvallen and around the area the previous year. Our efforts are in memory of these innocent men and their families and are to ensure that these events are never repeated. The area became known as Bandit country, a part of the United Kingdom where the law could not be enforced. The police and security forces could not, and still cannot travel by vehicle along many roads in the area. In effect the government allowed the PIRA to dominate the region, leading the ethnic cleansing of a significant percentage of the minority protestant community along the border.
The last armoured patrol in South Armagh, attacked in Crossmaglen October 1975 killing Cpl Gleeson. Since then the security forces travel by helicopter for security reasons
In order to explain the importance of these installations it is necessary to look at the events previous to their erection. 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. The figures speak for themselves, and represent the actions of a terrorist group who were virtually unchecked in the area. The fact that this could be allowed to occur in a part of the United Kingdom is an affront to democratic governance. The extent of the problem is best exemplified by two cases which stagger belief. In the first the PIRA was able to mount a Vehicle Check Point with six armed men in uniform in broad daylight, stop then murder two of the most senior and experienced police officers in Northern Ireland. The other case saw the group plan and execute the murder by bomb of the most senior Lord Justice in the country, whom at the time was under the protection of both a Gardai and RUC escort.
If there had been more watch towers RUC men Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and his colleague Supt Bob Buchanan would still be alive as it was in dead group beyond the view of watch towers that terrorists struck. 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. 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 their car. 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. This and other murders which could have been avoided by better border security have been 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.
To reinforce the issue that these murders prove the need for the type of security we see today it is instructional to look in detail at the two murders. The best source, in the public domain, is the Corey reports, which look at the allegations of Gardai collusion in these cases. However they also expose the complete lack of security, in South Armagh which contributed to the murders.
The victims: Lord Justice and Lady Gibson
Lord Justice Gibson
Extracts taken from the reports produced by Judge Peter Cory 2004
1.4 Lord Justice Gibson and Lady Gibson were a very fine and loving couple who cared for and contributed greatly to their society and their community. On 25 April 1987 they were cruelly killed in a very carefully planned and executed bombing attack. At the time Lord Justice Gibson was just a week short of his 74th birthday and his wife of 42 years, Lady Cecily Gibson, was in her 67th year.
1.6 Lord Justice Gibson graduated in law from Queen’s University in 1937 and was called to the Bar in the following year. He was an outstanding lawyer and counsel on many leading cases. He was chairman of the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly. He was elected a bencher in 1961. He was described by Lord McDermott in 1968 as the best lawyer at the Bar. In 1968 he became a Chancery Judge and in 1975 Lord Justice.
1.8 He was a well-respected, talented, conscientious and courageous judge. He presided on high profile cases. Yet he never flinched from making difficult decisions which he must have known would be extremely unpopular with one faction or another of Northern Ireland society. He was independent minded. I am sure that, like all judges, he struggled to achieve impartiality and fairness in his decisions. He served with distinction in the difficult, demanding and dangerous role of a Judge in Northern Ireland. His death was a great loss to his family and friends, to the Bench, to the Bar and, whether they appreciated it or not, to all residents of Northern Ireland.
1.9 Tragically and incomprehensibly, the murderers took great pride in killing this elderly, decent, caring and contributing couple.
1.48 Detective Garda Mostyn and Detective Garda Shovlin were the officers assigned to escort the Gibsons to the border. The officers led the way out of Dublin. On the main Dublin to Belfast road they permitted Mrs Gibson to pass them and they then followed her. They noticed that there was another car with three young women in it who overtook them. They saw this car at the border crossing close to the Gibsons’ car.
1.50 When the cars arrived at the Customs post at Dromad, Mrs Gibson stopped their car and Lord Justice Gibson got out. He came back to the Garda car and shook hands with the officers and thanked them for their assistance. The officers said that they would follow him to the border. The officers watched the Gibsons drive across the border. They then drove back to the Dromad Customs post and, just as they reached it, heard a loud bang. They looked behind and saw a lot of smoke, and immediately drove their car back to the border. There they saw the column of smoke and then went directly to the Dromad Garda Station, where they reported what had happened.
1.52 The explosion took place on the main Dublin to Belfast road, in the northbound lane, some 100 metres north of the Kinney Mills road, and 400 metres north of the border. It created a large crater, about 10 feet x 20 feet and 6 feet deep. Investigating officers thought that, at the moment of the explosion, the Gibsons were on their way to the rendezvous point to meet the RUC escort that was to take them to Belfast.
The remains ofthe vehicle travelled in by Lord and Lady Justice Gibson
1.54 …Investigators estimated that approximately 450-500 pounds of homemade explosive had been planted in the Ford Cortina, and detonated by radio control.
1.59 The effect of the violent explosion and the ensuing fire was such that they not only caused the instantaneous death of Lord and Lady Gibson, but made it impossible to visually identify them. That was only accomplished by reference to their dental records.
1.60 At the time of the explosion, the RUC officers who were to meet the Gibsons in Northern Ireland and escort them to their home in Belfast, were approaching the designated rendezvous point. One of the officers, who had served as the permanent escort to the Gibsons for the preceding three years, stated that he believed that the Judge and his wife would not be crossing the border until approximately 8.45am As the two RUC officers were approaching Newry, they were told of the explosion. They hurried to the scene and notified the RUC officers in the area.
1.61 The RUC determined that the bomb had been triggered by a radio signal. This means that the individual or persons who set off the explosion must have been in a position to see the Gibsons’ car as it approached the site and must have been able to make a rough estimate of its speed
1.63 The South Armagh brigade of PIRA claimed responsibility for the murders.
1.64 PIRA also issued other public statements indicating that the murders had been planned in advance.
1.66 An article in the Sunday Tribune, on 3 May 1987, had an IRA spokesman refusing to say how the IRA knew the movements of Lord Justice Gibson and his wife, but added that “the IRA had known that Sir Maurice was returning home via Dublin a considerable time in advance”. He also said that the IRA’s preparations for the murder were made “at the very minimum, a week in advance”. He pointed out that “the IRA needed that amount of time to prepare the explosives, which were just the normal fertiliser mix, not plastics, to study the lie of the land, to get the car ready, and to prepare the remote control”.
The victims: Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan
Chief Superintendent Harry Breen
Extracts taken from the reports produced by Judge Peter Cory 2004
On the afternoon of 20 March 1989, two outstanding RUC officers were brutally murdered in an ambush on the Edenappa Road.
The passenger in the car was Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, the Divisional Commander for “H” Division of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). This Division encompassed large parts of the counties of Armagh and South Down. He had enjoyed an exemplary career in the RUC. He joined the force on 5 May 1957.
2.8 He had been commended twice and highly recommended on two other occasions. He was awarded the RUC Service Medal and later the Police Long-Service and Good Conduct Medal…..
2.9 He was a deeply caring family man, devoted to his wife June and their two children, a daughter, Gillian, then aged 24, and a son, George, then aged 20. He was a conscientious, talented and dedicated police officer; a devoted husband and loving father. He was widely known and well respected in his community.
2.10 Superintendent Robert Buchanan was the driver of the ambushed vehicle. He occupied the difficult and dangerous post of Border Superintendent for “H” Division. He was responsible for all cross-border matters and, in particular, the liaison between the RUC and An Garda Síochána. He joined the RUC in 1956 Superintendent Buchanan was admired and respected by police officers on both sides of the border. He was known as a man of absolute integrity, and as a proud, dedicated and able police officer.
2.11 He was the loved and loving husband of Catherine and the fond and caring father of their two children, a daughter, Heather, then aged 27, and a son, William, then aged 25. His love of his family, his dedication to his Church and to his community, and his pride in his role as a police officer, mark the character of this outstanding officer.
2.12 The death of these two officers was a great loss to their police force, to the growing cooperation between what was then the RUC and An Garda Síochána, to their families, their friends and communities.
From the point of view of the murderers, the location of the ambush was ideal. The topography and the trees in the area provided ideal cover and the site could not be seen from the nearby British Army observation posts. It was located on the Edenappa Road, close to a vacant, abandoned house, referred to in some reports as “Morgan’s”. The driver of a north-bound vehicle approaching the site would have difficulty in attempting to decide if it was in reality an ambush.
2.38 Descriptions of the scene and the sequence of events were obtained through eyewitness accounts, intelligence reports and other investigations carried out by the RUC and Gardaí. It appears that shortly before the shooting two men, dressed in army battle fatigues and with camouflage paint on their faces, were at the scene. They were both armed. One was stationed at the side of the road in the ditch, while the other controlled traffic. A few minutes before the Buchanan car came on the scene, three south-bound vehicles were stopped. The first south-bound car was ordered to pull into the left-hand side of the road and told to switch off the engine. Another south-bound car, a white vehicle, was ordered to pull in to the right-hand side of the road at an angle and turn off the engine. The second car was parked approximately one car length behind the first vehicle. Almost immediately after the second car was stopped, a third arrived on the scene proceeding south. This car was also told to park on the left-hand side immediately behind the first car. It was apparently a blue Talbot.
2.39 The occupants of the three south-bound vehicles were told to get out of their cars and lie on the roadside with their hands over their heads. One of the two armed men covered the carefully placed vehicles with his weapon while the other gunman remained standing in the middle of the road. When the last south-bound vehicle was in position, there was room for only one vehicle to proceed along the road and that but slowly.
2.40 Shortly after the last south-bound vehicle was stopped and in place, Superintendent Buchanan’s red Vauxhall Cavalier appeared, driving northerly. It too was flagged down by the armed man in the middle of the road. He slowed down and, as he did so, a cream-coloured van, which had been following, overtook Superintendent Buchanan’s car and pulled into the laneway to the vacant house, opposite the red car. Four armed men, who were also in camouflage gear but wearing balaclavas, came out of the cream van and approached the red car. They started firing at it immediately. The red car attempted to back up to escape. It appeared to stall and then try once again, but stalled once more and never moved again. Both occupants of the car were hit several times. Superintendent Buchanan was in all probability dead by the time his car came to a stop. Examination of the vehicle the next day indicated that it was still in reverse with the accelerator pedal fully depressed.
2.41 Ballistic testing revealed that two of the men who shot at the red Vauxhall Cavalier used .223 Armalite rifles, one used a Ruger mini 14 and the fourth a 7.62 Short. The testing indicated that one Armalite rifle had last been used in a helicopter attack at Silverbridge on 23 June 1988. The other Armalite rifle had last been used in the murder of Eamon Maguire at Cullaville on 1 September 1987. There was no prior recorded trace of the other two rifles. There were at least 25 strike marks from bullets along both sides of the Vauxhall Cavalier, although the majority appeared to be aimed at the driver’s side.
The vehicle travelled in by Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan at the time of their murder
2.42 The autopsy performed on Superintendent Buchanan revealed that he had suffered many fragment wounds on the right side of the head. He also sustained many fragment wounds on the front of the right shoulder and upper chest and two major fragments had penetrated completely through his chest from front to back. He had suffered a lacerated lung and considerable internal bleeding.
2.43 He had also been shot in the head at close range, almost certainly after he had died.
2.44 Chief Superintendent Breen had been wounded in the abdomen, the upper right shoulder and arm and sustained wounds to his head. He had been hit on both the left and right side of his body. It appears that he had left the car after it came to a stop, waving a white handkerchief. It was obvious that he had suffered several gunshot wounds before he left the car which, although severe, did not appear to have been fatal. Eyewitness accounts indicated that a member of the shooting team walked up to him and shot him in the back of the head.
2.45 Neither Breen nor Buchanan was armed. This must have been known to the murderers who would probably have been aware of the regulation that prevented them bringing firearms into the Republic.
2.46 These shootings were brutal, cowardly, and demonstrate a callous insensitivity to both the suffering of individuals and to life itself.
2.47 On the 11.00pm radio news on 22 March 1989 the following statement was made: “In their statement the IRA say that the two top officers were shot dead after their car came to one of a number of checkpoints which the IRA claims they were operating on the Monday."
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. If the state cannot protect its most high ranking police officers and judges what does that say about the levels of protection afforded to ordinary people who had to live and work in the area. These and other innumerable murders in and around South Armagh prove the lack of security and anyone considering further removal of security should consider the positive impact of the watchtowers.
The Security Base in Crossmaglen
After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement the British government realised that the promises of increased Irish co-operation in cross-border security were empty. The Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher developed a new more pro-active approach to security. Their efforts did lead to increased security in the area and curbed both crime such as smuggling and terrorism. The new security policy would use as its backbone, watchtowers modelled on the sangar built in Crossmaglen. Golf Five Zero known as ‘Borucki sangar’ was built in 1977. This led to a drop in attacks with the sangar itself only attacked twice between 1977 and early 1992. The usefulness of static outpost from which areas could be observed and patrols launched from was self-evident. It allowed for a continual security force presence without the previous risks, and offered the option of self sufficient mini-bases in the heart of the terrorist’s area.
CONSTRUCTION OF OUR DEFENCES
Security Installations have long been a feature of Ireland’s geography and socio-economic culture, and many are of great historic significance such as Fort George which witness the surrender of the German Atlantic U-Boat fleet in 1945. Indeed until the early eighteenth century, British soldiers used to be billeted in homes with private citizens or in rented accomodation. Barns and inns, however, became insufficient for troop living and sleeping needs. Citizens complained about costs. In addition, desertion was difficult to control. Thus, the very first British barracks were built in Ireland in 1713.
The Watchtower at Dromintee
The concept of securing Ulster stretches back into the mythology of Cuchulainn with the first defensive fortification the ‘Dorsey Ramparts’ constructed at the same time and as a gate to Navan Fort as early as 150BC. It linked the Dane’s Cast and Black Pigs Dyke fortifications which protected an independent kingdom of Ulster whose geographical limits mirror those of modern Northern Ireland. The Normans too built fortifications like Roche Castle, to secure the Pale from attack.
Through Plantation times, until the Williamite period the area saw various fortifications built and developed, at tradition that endured out of necessity until Partition when these installations became the new frontier, holding the border of the fledgling state. Generations of RIC, RUC, B-Specials, UDR and regular army regiments have all fought and died in the last almost one hundred years defending the community from those who would use violence to further their ends.
The mid 1980s saw a new departure in security policy in the area as the government attempted to stop the organised crime that funded the PIRA operations in the area, and also to limit the terrorists freedom to carry out operations. The multi-million pound building programme established a ring of watchtowers, aimed in large part at the activities of Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy. In order to build these on British soil some of the largest mobilisations since D-Day entitled Operation Condor and Operation Magistrate they were needed to facilitate the movement of material and men into the area. In the 10 weeks it took to re-build the base at Crossmaglen there were 5 IRA attacks and indeed the engineers sustained casualties in a mortar attack. The planning and security necessary to facilitiate the building and the fact that no civilian contractor was found to do it again underscores the need for such structures.
SACRIFICES MADE FOR SECURITY
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.
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. Many brave men gave their lives to construct the installations that today are being demolished.
Teebane Massacre January 1992, the Provisional IRA blew up a minibus at the Teebane crossroads near Omagh, Co Tyrone, carrying civilian men who were working on a nearby base. Eight men died and another six were severely injured.
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.
The need for these installations was first made 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
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 Anglian 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 May 1989, 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.
DIARY OF DESTRUCTION OF OUR DEFENCES
As soon as the PIRA declared another ceasefire, the first being broken by the Canary Wharf Bomb 1996, the Secretary of State Mo Mowlam introduced a raft of security cuts and concessions to appease Sinn Fein/IRA. These were strongly opposed by the majority community in Northern Ireland and branded appeasement of terrorism. The governments response was to portray the defense cuts as part of the peace process and necessary to secure PIRA decommissioning. Almost ten years on we audit the destruction of security in light of the total lack of verifiable decommissioning.
The diary of destruction began in July 1997 with the following changes being announced. They included changes introduced during previous cease-fire not reversed:
Closure and demolition of Army bases at North Howard Street, Kilturk, Clady, Buncrana Road and St Angelo;
Disbandment of Belfast Civilian Search Unit;
Removal of vast majority of vehicle control zones;
Removal of Army sangars at Chapel St/Church St Cookstown;
Re-opening of Londonderry city walls to the public;
Road furniture and ramps removed from Ballygomartin Road, RUC Donegall Pass,
RUC Oldpark, Hump PVCP and all Fermanagh patrol bases.
The further changes were introduced during the 1997 ceasefire:
Carrying of long arms restricted;
Increased use of liveried vehicles;
Military support withdrawn from south and east Belfast, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey;
Military support for RUC in Belfast city centre withdrawn;
Saxon armoured vehicles withdrawn from use;
Security gates in Belfast opened;
Single vehicle police patrolling resumes in North Region;
Military escort vehicles withdrawn in North region;
Reduction in military patrolling in both urban and rural areas,
Additional neighbourhood police patrols;
Security around Ardmore RUC station reduced;
Checking at PVCPs in Bessbrook relaxed;
Fewer military personnel required to support RUC in South Region;
Single vehicle patrols introduced in South Region;
Town centre barriers opened in Armagh, Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge and Newtownards.
Military foot patrols reduced in number - Lower Fails;
Reduction in military foot patrolling north and west Belfast during darkness;
Number of foot patrols over 24 hour period in west Belfast reduced;
Military escorts for RUC mobiles reduced to single vehicle in West Belfast;
Barriers at High St and Convent Hill Bessbrook opened 12 hours per day;
Helicopter activity at Bessbrook reduced;
Military support for RUC foot patrols in Newry town centre withdrawn;
Army exchange wearing of helmets for berets.
Then in September:
Police only foot patrols introduced into Woodbourne subdivision;
No night time military foot patrols from Springfield Road;
Army announce intention to close Kilkeel base;
Military support for RUC in Londonderry city centre withdrawn.
Finally by November:
No military support provided to daylight police foot patrols in West Belfast;
Permanent barriers at Strand Road RUC station removed.
The maps show the location of the various military installations along the border and South Armagh area. Many have now been destroyed and those that are left present a very patchy defence of the area
There are currently under 13,000 troops in NI – the lowest level since 1970. Troop levels have decreased year on year since 1992 when there were approximately 18,200. Many of the troops which government figures claim are in actual fact stationed elsewhere, and it would take considerable time to transport them to the province.
Since the cease-fire the Army has closed, demolished or vacated over 50 military bases and installations it occupied at that time. This represents a fifty percent drop in the last ten years, if present trends continue we would have no security installations or personnel by the year 2025.
Almost half of the surveillance sites which were in existence at the time of the ceasefire have been demolished. This includes the 'Borucki Sangar' at Crossmaglen. This building epitomises the argument for the need to retain these structures. It was built in 1977 after the IRA had killed six members of the security forces in six years in or around the square, Crossmaglen. Its final victim in that series was James Borucki, 19, killed in a booby trap bomb attack in August 1976. His death prompted the army to build the sangar. In the ensuing 23 years, only three security force members were murdered in the area.
The former Borucki Sangar in Crossmaglen
REMOVAL OF BORDER CONTROLS
These sites were supplemented by 102 sealed border crossings which allowed the security forces to check both the terrorist and criminal illegal entry points into the United Kingdom. As the only part of the UK which shares an international land border with a foreign country we are shocked that there are no obvious border controls. Indeed the border is not even marked or signed to make visitors aware they have left the republic of Ireland.
A Closed Border Crossing
Destruction of Specialist Anti-Terrorist Facilities Castlereagh, Strand Road and Gough Holding Centres are closed.
Former Castlereagh Holding Centre
BASE DEMOLITION/CLOSURE DATE
Demolition of Clady PVCP, Tyrone 30 June 1995
Demolition of North Howard Street Mill, Belfast 10 October 1995
Demolition of Buncrana PVCP, Londonderry 12 December 1995
Demolition of St Angelo Base, Enniskillen 31 March 1996
Demolition of R16 PVCP, Newry 23 December 1997
Demolition of Rockwood Base, Castlederg 16 February 1998
Demolition of Kilkeel Base 23 March 1998
Demolition of Crumlin Road Sangar, Belfast 12 October 1998
Demolition of R16 roadside sangar, Newry 21 October 1998
Demolition of 3 Bessbrook PVCP’s 23 November 1998
Vacation of 6 Fermanagh Patrol Bases: Mullan Bridge, Rosscor Bridge, Wattle Bridge, Clonatty Bridge, Annaghmartin, Killyvilly
Demolition of Hump PVCP, Strabane 8 February 1999
Demolition of Muff PVCP, Londonderry 12 February 1999
Demolition of Letterkenny PVCP, Londonderry 26 February 1999
Demolition of Fort Whiterock, Belfast 21 May 1999
Demolition of Gortmullan Patrol Base, Fermanagh 4 August 1999
Closure of Carrickfergus Base 5 September 1999
Withdrawal of troops from RUC stations:
Between April 1998 and April 1999 Withdrawal of troops from RUC Stations in Pomeroy and Coalisland
Broadway Observation Post, Belfast closed and handed back 21 June 2000
Demolition of “Borucki Sangar”, Crossmaglen 4 August 2000
Demolition of R16 Base Cloghoge, Newry completed 8 October 2000
Cookstown Base closed and demolished 3 November 2000
Demolition work at Fort George, Londonderry completed. 8 November 2000
Demolition of Killyvilly Patrol Base completed 10 November 2000
Demolition of Rosscor Bridge Patrol Base completed 28 November 2000
Demolition of Wattle Bridge Patrol Base completed 1 December 2000
Demolition of Long Kesh completed 16 March 2001
Demolition of Mullan Bridge Patrol Base completed 3 April 2001
Demolition of Clonatty Bridge Patrol Base completed 11 May 2001
Demolition of Annaghmartin Patrol base completed 18 May 2001
Magherafelt Base closed 25 October 2001
Newtownhamilton supersangar demolished – 26 October 2001
Camlough Mountain Tower (R13) demolished 7 November 2001
Malone Base closed 19 November 2001
The security barrier in Newry Street, Newtownhamilton re-opened 22 January 2002
Steeple Base closed 9 February 2002
Sturgan Mountain Tower (R11) demolished 26 March 2002
Glassdrumman Tower demolished 4 April 2002
Cloghoge Tower (R14) – demolished 21 June 2003
Tievecrum Tower (R23) – demolished 27 June 2003
Ebrington Army Base closed in December 2003.The 26 acre site in the Waterside area of the City was one of the prime strategic sites negotiated by the former First Minister and Deputy First Minister for transfer, free of charge, under the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative, in May 2002. The Army vacated the Barracks on 12 December 2003, with the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister then taking formal ownership of the property. This was followed in 2004 with the closure of Clooney Army Base, Londonderry.
Security Decimated 2004
Withdrawal of troops from RUC stations -
Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh
Belleek, Co Fermanagh
The current government has abdicated many of its obligations to its citizens. 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 seek legal remedy under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The clear fact is that the government are ignoring and even suppressing the hard military facts about the need to retain security in South Armagh. Senior serving police officers have spoken to our research staff and confirmed the absolute need to retain both the army and the installations the military rely on. If they are expected to police the area they need protection. Officers of all ranks expressed disbelief and feared that their lives would be put at risk if security were scaled down.
The Ministry of Defence have declined to comment on these matters and have refused top give official interviews as the south Armagh issue was "too politically sensitive", but a senior military source expressed the following opinions.
"South Armagh is like nowhere else in the British Isles. It remains the heartland of terrorism and a very dangerous place. It poses a higher threat than probably anywhere else in Western Europe. The border region along with north Louth is where the majority of dissident republicans operate from, and where the most effective wing of the Provisional IRA was and is based. They are not just producers but exporters of terrorism. The Omagh bomb, the Canary Wharf bomb both passed through here.
"Weapons from Croatia are bought to be smuggled to this area. It's only just over a year since Eamon Collins [the former IRA man turned one of their fiercest critics] was found murdered in a ditch. Those people don't want peace. How can we walk away? It's not just about terrorism but general lawlessness and criminal activity. Troops are required to back up police officers to enforce the law. They have to go around by helicopter because it is not safe by road.
"Smuggling and fuel laundering is big business. Customs and excise lose around £10m a year in this area. Paramilitaries are up to their necks in it. Just over the border a few weeks ago, customs officials were trying to investigate a fuel laundering scam on a farm when they found £100,000-worth of dodgy goods in a shed. The next day, Gardai were sent to recover the stuff but the gang jumped out of a hedge with automatic weapons and seized goods they'd confiscated.
"It's hard on the people who keep the law, yes, but the towers are a necessary part of the operation here. It's either that or more foot patrols tramping over land. It's no picnic for soldiers here. Many of them are working seven days a week and most are away from their families for months. Yes, the watchtowers are ugly. But they provide vital cover and information that cannot be disclosed because it would jeopardise future security. What do these people want? They're complaining about the view while we're saving lives."
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.
Republican violence against security forces
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.
Faughil Mountain Security Base
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. We ask the present government what will your legacy be to the people of the United Kingdom and South Armagh in Particular. The present policy of appeasement will haunt successive British governments as we will have to pay for their mistakes with our lives and those of our children.
THE CASE FOR RESTORATION OF SECURITY
The issue of security must be detached from the political process, for too long the lives and liberties of ordinary people in South Armagh and across the province have been bartered by politicians. We welcome the role and remit of the IMC to look into the issue of security. We urge members to consider as they have done in the first report id the terms terminology and remit is correct. For example the first report chose to move beyond the term ‘ceasefire’ in this report we ask that the term normalisation be deleted and that the terminology of demililitarisation be defined to include all armed parties.
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