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Ferris calls for complete demilitarisation while visiting border region

2 April, 2003

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD met with farmers from North Louth and South Armagh on Tuesday (1 April) evening to discuss a range of issues. The meeting, which was organised by the Sheelagh Branch of the IFA, was also attended by IFA National Executive member Ray O'Malley and Conor Murphy MLA. Among the problems addressed were the growth in the levels of TB, cross-border rural development funding and the continued heavy British military presence in the area. The latter was highlighted following the meeting when Deputy Ferris was brought to see the nearby Drumucknaval British Army spy post.

Deputy Ferris stated that he will continue to press the Department of Agriculture in Dublin to ensure that the northern authorities step up their efforts to curb the spread of bovine disease. He will also write to Minister Brian Cowan regarding the progress of investigations into British Army behaviour along the border which were referred several months ago to the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference.

"I would support the call of people living along the border for an all-Ireland approach to animal health and the implementation of an all-Ireland disease eradication programme", he said. "Like the people of this area the elements nor the animals recognise this border and it is illogical to pretend that they do. What happens in the 26 Counties in terms of disease eradication has to be mirrored in the Six Counties and vice versa. It only makes sense and it is an natural outworking of the Good Friday Agreement for there to be an all-Ireland approach to agricultural matters, especially around the issues of animal health and disease eradication".

Speaking at the Drumucknaval spy post, Deputy Ferris said: "This monstrosity and those others which blight the countryside around here are a testament to the failure of the British Government to fulfil its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. It is an unwarranted and unwanted intrusion into the lives of the local population and one which must be removed if there is to be tangible proof on the ground that the current process is effective.

"The continued presence of such posts also illustrates the increasingly incongruous nature of the British presence in this part of Ireland. It is some testimony indeed to the legacy of centuries of colonialism that these posts are the only remaining tangible evidence of the British presence in South Armagh. More and more the border areas are returning to their natural social and economic order. What is required now is to ensure that real demilitarisation takes place and that such alien structures are closed down and removed for once and for all". ENDS

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