Upgrade Work Sign of a Hardening Border? O’Murchú

Is upgrading work at a former British Army base in South Armagh a sign of a hardening of the border ahead of Brexit?

That’s the question that Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú is seeking the answer to after he raised the issue of work activity on Forkhill Mountain with Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD, in Leinster House on June 11.

The Louth TD visited the remote mountain-top site on Forkhill Mountain ahead of his contribution in Leinster House during a debate about Brexit. He was joined by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council representative, Cllr. Declan Murphy.

Mr Ó Murchú said he had been prompted to go to the site after receiving ‘worrying’ reports from people who live in the area about large scale activity on the mountaintop the previous week.

He said that what he saw on the mountain corroborated what he had been told by concerned residents.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “Forkhill Mountain is just half a mile from the border. It was previously the site of a major military installation for the British Army and they officially left in 2006.

“However, the helipad and other remnants of their time at this outpost remain. What I saw on Thursday was a heavily fortified area, which contained a massive mast, with a number of satellite dishes on it, along with six sizable steel container-style structures, some of which emit loud whirring noises. Telecommunications infrastructure, at least one sizable camera, has been maintained and upgraded and major works have taken place recently.

“This was all surrounded with high grade steel fencing, with barbed wire at the top. It is sited right at the peak of Forkill Mountain, which gives unrivalled and uninterrupted views right over Dundalk, Ravensdale and all the way to Carlingford Lough.

Locals have told Mr Ó Murchú that on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week (June 3, 4 and 5 2020), numerous vehicles and huge amount of personnel were on the site including 5/6 Police cars and a further 6/7 ‘civilian’ vans.

“In addition, there was a Bogmaster vehicle brought up the mountain. 

“The last similar sized operation on the site happened at the end of October 2019 and it has been reported that there are regular smaller visits three or four times a month. During some operations helicopters have been used to carry equipment and personnel to the site.”

Mr Ó Murchú said “locals have previously been told the equipment was for
ambulance and fire service communications, but there are fears this is not the case.

“There were also reports that the PSNI admitted that British army engineers were involved in the October operation.”  

The Sinn Féin TD raised the issue in Leinster House on Thursday with Minister McEntee, and asked her to contact the British government to get clarity on these operations.

“We welcome the fact that the Irish Government have stated that they are, and have been, committed to ensuring the border community is protected and no border infrastructure is developed.

“However, there is a low level of trust among the people of North Louth and South Armagh that the British government would keep their word on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish Protocol. 

“The people of the border area need certainty from both Governments that no border infrastructure hard or soft will be erected.”

 

Stephen Keegan passes away, Brother of Edentubber Martyr

Louth Sinn Féin is saddened to learn of the passing of Republican Stephen Keegan from County Wexford.

Stephen’s father fought in the 1916 and his grandfather fought with the Fenians. His brother George was killed at Edentubber in November 1957 so republicanism was in his genes and Stephen never missed a year and could always be seen up on the stage having travelled from County Wexford to honour his brother and his fallen comrades.

We send our sincere condolences to his family.

Ar dheis dé do raibh a anam.

This interview was given by Stephen 3 years ago to commemorate the 1916 Rising.

 

Munster: SUSI Grant Eligibility Criteria must be clarified in light of Covid-19

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster has said that the Minister for Education needs to clarify the eligibility criteria for SUSI grant applications for those whose incomes have been affected as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Deputy Munster made her remarks as the SUSI grant application process opens this week..

Deputy Munster said:

“Hundreds of thousands of workers have had their incomes reduced through no fault of their own as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

“While we hope that the impact of this will be short lived for these workers and families, it is clear that many will struggle with the financial burden of sending children to third-level in a few short months.

“However, it appears that the Department of Education has made no provision for these families as the SUSI grant application process opens up and it appears that the Department will make a determination on grant applications based on incomes earned in 2019; ignoring the new reality for thousands of families.

“The SUSI application process only allows for a change of circumstances to be taken into account where the change is ‘permanent, or for the foreseeable future’.

“I am calling on the Minister to clarify what arrangements are in place to support students from families that have seen a significant drop in income to meet the costs of third-level education for the new academic year.

“It is clear that the criteria applied in previous years is not fit for purpose and the Minister must take account of these realities to ensure that those who require financial support can access it. I have written to the Minister to see how he intends to address this issue.

Cllr McGeough Welcomes Extension to Consultation on Ardee Bypass

Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough has welcomed the extension to the 31st March deadline for the public consultation on the Ardee Bypass.

Cllr McGeough requested the extension in light of the on-going Covid19 emergency which he says “has hampered efforts by some local people to submit their comments on time. Some of the older community especially, need assistance in the administrative end of things and usually they would seek help from family members or local councillors. However, in light of the Corona Virus and following government advice to stay home and keep a physical distance, it has made the process a bit more difficult and prolonged for them.”

The 31st March deadline has now been extended to 21st April.

Cllr McGeough said “I want to thank Roghan & O’Donovan Engineers for their flexibility in this matter. If anyone wants to submit a comment or needs help to fill out the submission sheet, although I am not able to visit I am still available by phone or email to assist in whatever way I can.”

“The Ardee Bypass is badly needed but we must ensure that it is done correctly and to the community’s satisfaction.”

Anyone who requires a submission form for the Public Consultation or needs any assistance please contact Pearse on 086 813 5447 or alternatively you can email him on pearse.mcgeough@louthcoco.ie

COVID19 ADVICE & Louth SF CONTACT NUMBERS

Louth Sinn Féin has understandably been inundated with concerned citizens regarding the Corona Virus.

There are measures you can take that are within your control:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Work from home if you can
  • Don’t go out unless you have to and stay 2 metres away from other people
  • Avoid callers to your door, there should NOT be any cold or uninvited callers at this time
  • Check on your elderly relatives by telephoning them regularly
  • Check with neighbours, look out for each other

That being said, people are concerned, especially older people or those who are classed as ‘vulnerable’.

Firstly, let us reassure you, there is no shortage of food or supplies, the retailers have confirmed that the retail line is continuing uninterrupted and there is no need for anyone to buy in bulk or panic buy.

Secondly, some shops (Tescos & Lidl so far) are operating an older/vulnerable persons time slot in the stores so that these people can go along and shop in relative quiet and peace. Carers can also take advantage of this early morning slot.

A number of outlets have closed including our constituency offices but we are still available for those with urgent issues. We will arrange to either deal with the issue over the phone or arrange a suitable and safe way to meet with you. You can also contact us through our individual facebook pages or email.

There are also a number of SF activists that are willing to deliver supplies to people who live alone or are older/vulnerable and you can contact your local SF member or Councillor in your area for details.

Our contact numbers are as follows:

Dundalk & Carlingford

Antóin Watters 087 416 5157

Kevin Meenan 085 858 9241

Mid-Louth

Pearse McGeough 086 813 5447

Drogheda & South Louth

Joanna Byrne 087 114 6522

Tom Cunningham 087 371 7884

We have a long road ahead of us but if we all pull together and follow the medical advice then we can minimise the damage this virus will cause.