From The Times -
July 29, 2005
Army watchtower torn down after IRA declare peace
By Jenny Booth, Times Online
Cloghoge watchtower is dismantled in near Forkhill army base in 2003 (Paul Faith/PA)
An army watchtower and a look-out post are being torn down today and a military base on the Irish border in south Armagh is to close in a lightning
response to yesterday's IRA's peace declaration.
The British Army's commanding officer in Northern Ireland announced that the improving security situation meant that the installations were no longer
"I can announce that preliminary work is starting today in south Armagh on the removal of the hilltop observation tower at Sugerloaf Hill near
Camlough, on the vacation and closure of the base at Forkhill and on the removal of a super-sangar (a lookout post) at Newtownhamilton police
station," said Lieutenant General Sir Reddy Watt, the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland.
"In light of yesterday’s developments, the Chief Constable and I have decided that a further reduction in security profile is possible."
The moves announced today appear to be intended as a swift and visible response to the IRA's announcement of an end to 35 years of bloody struggle.
The Army is expected to follow this up in the coming days by publishing a revised security normalisation programme, where military installations will
be dismantled. At the same time, plans are being made to allow on-the-run paramilitary fugitives to return home.
But unionists were unhappy at the Army's speedy response. Arlene Foster, a senior member of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, said: "It’s
criminally irresponsible of the Government to do that, given what has gone on in those border areas.
"The Government seem quite happy to act on words alone. It’s startling that when the IRA give a statement saying they will stop what they should
never have been doing that the Government act so soon."
The process of dismantling British military infrastructure in the Province was already well under way last year, when progress was halted by the news
of IRA involvement in the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery in Belfast and the IRA-orchestrated cover-up after the murder of Robert McCartney
outside a city bar.
Since the IRA first declared a ceasefire in 1994, the number of battalions has been cut by half from 18 to 9, the number of watchtowers has been
brought down from 14 to 10, and the number of military sites reduced from 105 to 55. However, there are still more British troops in Northern Ireland
than the combined force levels in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, today tried to reassure Unionists, saying that he accepted that the IRA had broken its word before. He
said that the bank robbery and the McCartney murder had fuelled unionist scepticism that the IRA would keep their word.
But with General John de Chastelain’s international disarmament body on stand-by to examine decommissioning and the Independent Monitoring
Commission assessing its ceasefire, Mr Hain said every move would be studied.
He told BBC Breakfast: "It’s up to the IRA to deliver and they will be watched and we will be scrutinising everything. By actively shutting down I
don’t just mean bullets and bombs, I mean punishment beatings, criminality, targeting and the robbing of banks."
Mr Hain is expected to call a fresh round of talks with political leaders, in a bid to restore devolution. Discussions are expected to begin in
September, by which time the British and Irish Governments hope the Provisionals will have completed the promised arms decommissioning process.
General John de Chastelain is due to meet an IRA representative in the coming days as part of plans to empty the arms dumps. Two clergymen - one
Protestant, one Catholic - have been chosen to scrutinise the destruction along with the General.
Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey will meet with his Assembly team today to assess the IRA statement.