18 October 2000
Demilitarise Now - Adams
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP today visited South Armagh and met with the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee.
Speaking to the media at the Glassdrummond Hilltop Fort Mr Adams said:
``The British government has failed to grasp the imperative of the Good Friday Agreement on the issue of demilitarisation or to honour the commitments it made on this matter in May at Hillsborough. What is needed is a radical programme, with public timetables, for the demilitarisation of the South Armagh area.''
The Sinn Fein President said:
``The statistics of occupation and the minimalist approach to this matter, especially in the South Armagh area, by the British government is evidence of the strength of the securocrats and generals who are dictating British policy on this issue.''
Mr Adams said:
``Over two years ago the British government committed itself to produce a `published overall strategy'. It has not done this.
In May, as part of the Hillsborough deal which led to the restoration of the institutions, the British government committed itself to securing the full implementation of the Agreement, including demilitarisation, by June 2001.
The lack of progress that in South Armagh does not auger well for this time-table.
In this area there are:
- 5 major British Army/RUC bases
- 14 hilltop forts
- 31 hilltop spyposts
- over 3,000 British troops and RUC - that's one member of the British forces for every 8 citizens.
There are over 200 helicopter flights each month to each hilltop fort and spyposts
Between July 1997 and May 1999 4179 flights took place to the Glassdrummond post alone
In addition there are hundreds of surveillance and infra-red cameras scattered throughout the area
According to the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee over 40,000 livestock have been killed since 1994 as a result of low flying helicopters
And there are now British forces harassing residents in parts of this area where they were never seen before. One example of this is the Adavoyle Road at Dromintee where between July 10th and July 30th on a three-quarter of a mile stretch of road overlooked by three spyposts, 21 British Army checkpoints were noted.
An additional concern for residents is that there have been 3 helicopter crashes or emergency landings in this area, one of them here at Glassdrummond.
It is clear that the peace process has made little substantial difference to improving the quality of life for people in this area, indeed many can legitimately argue that the circumstances have worsened.
If the peace process is to succeed, if politics is to be seen to be working, then the people of this area, like those in Fermanagh and Tyrone, must see in-your-face change. The peace process has to improve the quality of their lives, while presenting the opportunity for greater change.
The British government has 8 months in which to complete a process of demilitarisation. If it is to fulfil its commitments Mr. Blair must give leadership, take on the securocrats and honour the obligations that he freely entered into and which are essential to the building of confidence and trust in the peace process.
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