Sunday Life

Residents get choppy over copters

By Sunday Life Reporter
28 June 2004

THE Secretary of State is to be asked by the SDLP to intervene, to curtail late night Army helicopter flights, at one of Northern Ireland's biggest security bases.

Villagers in Dundrum, Co Down, are angry over unprecedented levels of military chopper activity to and from the nearby Ballykinlar base.

The manoeuvres, in which helicopters have been hovering for up to five hours, have been designed to train frontline soldiers for potential disorder, during the forthcoming marching season.

Residents' claim that in a 13-day period, this month alone, they have had to endure helicopters hovering over the village for periods of up to five hours up until 11pm.

One resident said: "In the past fortnight, the helicopter takes to the air around teatime, and remains there almost constantly until at least 10pm and sometimes as late as 11pm.

"The Army at Ballykinlar has shown little consideration to local residents."

Now the SDLP's MLA for the area, Margaret Ritchie, is to ask Paul Murphy to investigate.

Miss Ritchie claimed it is "unreasonable" for residents to continue enduring such high levels of activity, late at night.

An Army spokesman said the flights are to assist soldiers with public order training and take place annually.

He revealed the flights had been taking place over a three-week period, in June, but are now at an end.

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