Fermanagh Herald
(thanks to ira2)

'Aggressive' RIR searches in Roslea

By Aileen Murphy

People in Roslea are up in arms about the level of Royal Irish Regiment activity in the area and, as a result, a number of local men have come forward to relay first-hand their experiences of being stopped and searched over the last week
James Murray explained that last week he was stopped twice in the space of nine hours. Last Thursday night at 11.15, and the following Friday morning at 7.55am.

'On Friday I was on my way to work, going out the Monaghan Road when an eight man RIR patrol blocked the road. They asked for my licence and when I said I didn't have it with me they pulled me over to the side of the road.
'They put rows of spikes, like a 'stinger' device between the front and back wheels of the car so that I couldn't move it. When I asked them why they did this, they said it was routine, but I've never seen it done before,' Mr Murray continued.

'They did not have a PSNI officer with them, I phoned both the Police Station and my local Councillor to look for backup. When I was on the phone to (Councillor) Brian McCaffrey, one of the RIR patrol told me that he would 'drive me through the hedge'.

Mr Murray claimed that another of the soldiers, who he believed to be the patrol leader, called him a w*****. 'They were really aggressive and bad-mannered.
'At this stage I tried to leave the vehicle and walk back into Roslea to the PSNI station, I got about 60 yards up the road before two of the soldiers came up and took me by each shoulder marched me back and pushed me up against the van.
"Some RUC officers arrived shortly after this, but there was no sense of urgency about them arriving and when they did they just backed the army up anyway,' said Mr Murray.

'I don't know why they were so aggressive with me, there was nothing in the back of my van except a few building tools, the van wasn't locked and you could see in clearly through the windows.

'I think it's very sad that this situation has developed in Roslea, it's a quiet area, but the RIR have never really been accepted here, they are very aggressive towards the Nationalist community and this has got worse over the last 12 months. Something needs to done about this situation or sooner or later somebody's going to come a cropper.'

Another Roslea local, Oliver McCaffrey said that he was stopped by an RIR patrol that same night shortly after 10pm. 'They pulled me over and searched my boot and opened the bonnet. They were very aggressive and bad-mannered, just standing there sniggering the whole time.

'They asked me for my name and address, which I gave to them, but they asked me for my road number, I explained that I only use my townland and they started laughing again saying: 'Don't you even know your own house number?'. They held me up for about 10 minutes, all for nothing' Mr McCaffrey continued.

'The number of patrols has risen greatly in the last few weeks, and local people are really starting to get annoyed with the number of times they are being pulled over,' he added.

Mr McCaffrey explained that he had already made a complaint to the RIR civilian representative, and was waiting for a response.

On Friday last, a protest took place outside the joint Army and Police base in Roslea. The protest, organised by Farmers and Residents Against Military Bases (FARM) was held because of the previous 48-hour's harassment of the local community by members of the Royal Irish Regiment, explained Sinn Fein MLA Thomas O'Reilly.

He said he attended the protest after receiving many complaints from local people.

'The protesters held their protest outside the main gate of the barracks. Most of them carried banners calling for the removal of this regiment from the area and an end to the harassment of the local population.

'Many of them blew whistles and used hooters to register their protest at the behaviour of the security forces that morning and the previous night around the village' added Mr O'Reilly.

The protest which was also attended by the two other local Councillors, Brian Mc Caffrey and Ruth Lynch, lasted for approximately one hour and was attended by about 80 people.

Mr O'Reilly continued: "During the protest the security forces used a strong searchlight and at one stage prepared a fire hose in case some of the protesters were to come over the wall of the base.

"The anger of the protesters was very evident throughout the protest and sent a clear message that this particular regiment was not acceptable in the area.'
Commenting on the increase in levels of troops, a spokesperson for the RIR said: 'Patrol levels fluctuate in response to the threat to the public of on-going terrorist activity. The threat and capability of dissident republican terrorists to launch attacks was illustrated by the planting of a 130lb car bomb in the town (Roslea) in October 2003, and during the same week the recovery of an automatic weapon".

He suggested that 'since the Good Friday Agreement patrolling levels in Fermanagh have fallen continuously.'

In response to the allegations of heavy-handedness and aggression on the part of the soldiers, the spokesperson stressed: 'The British Army expects the highest standards of behaviour from soldiers who often find themselves in hazardous and hostile environments and situations.'

'If any member of the public feels they have a legitimate complaint to make against a member of the armed forces, there is a well-established complaints' procedure involving civilian representatives appointed by the Northern Ireland Office who can deal with the situation.'

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