Tuesday, 26 June 2007

South Armagh- leaving Bessbrook Mill

Yesterday the last soldiers left Bessbrook Mill in South Armagh- maybe a legacy of Mr Blair- no more soldiers helping the police in the border area's. But for me- unlike many Labour supporters, it is more than a footnote in the history of New Labour.
I spent almost 2 years working in South Armagh, living in Bessbrook Mill, Crossmaglen and in observation towers on the border itself.
To me it was not a battle for Independence but a place where the rule of law was not enforced where many people were happy to see the IRA keep the police off the streets so they could carry on their lucrative smuggling business.
In the 70's and 80's it was the Falls Road in Belfast, Crossmaglen, and Forkhill that were the places where soldiers were losing their lives, occasionally a TV documentary was made or a few lines in an English paper mentioned the war!
Today if we had the same situation, we would find trouble running out of the security base without falling over a Sky TV crew!
Today the Falls Rd, Shankhill and Newry are replaced by more dangerous places- Basra and Helmund province.
I am glad that Tony and Labour have now got the likes of Paisley and Adams together round a table- I know it is the only way to peace but as Bessbrook closes, I also remember the many soldiers from my Regiment who died in South Armagh and though we know the names of some of the murderers and their leaders who ordered the attacks- we know that they will sit in their large farms, bought with the spoils of their smuggling business, maybe thinking they have got away with it. they probably have but we should not forget the many British soldiers who took part in Operation Banner- the longest operation ever in the history of the British Army.
So Bessbrook Mills closes- once the busiest heliport in Europe- but for soldiers it is not forgotten just added to Aden and Malaya and hopefully one day Basra will be spoke about in the past tense as in the last moth my former Regiment has lost 4 men.
They will be remembered by many as are those who lost their lives in Northern Ireland.

No comments: