[Sinn Fein]

28th April 2000

Helicopter decision long overdue

Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein Assembly member Conor Murphy, reacting to the British military's decision to ground eight military helicopters in the Six Counties, has said that the decision was long overdue and claimed that the fact that they took so long to do this had put the lives of civilians at risk.

Mr. Murphy said:

``The decision by the British army to remove eight helicopters from service is one which is long overdue. Nationalists, particularly in the South Armagh area, have consistently highlighted the threat which is posed to civilians from helicopters, some of which fly above densely populated areas at rooftop height.

``Recently we have had two British military helicopter crashes, the most recent of which was only two weeks ago in South Antrim, while before that we had a crash in Mullaghbawn, both of which could have caused loss of life to civilians who lived in the area.

``The British government and MoD has consistently ignored representations concerning the dangers posed by these helicopters and their activities. The fact that they have ignored these representations, resulting in a number of crashes, can only lead people to believe that the British government and MoD were only too happy to endanger lives in order to keep their military machine on a war footing in Ireland. All British Army helicopters should be grounded immediately and returned to their bases in England.''

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