Car rammings 'fantasy' says SF

(Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

A Sinn Féin assembly member has described recent reports of cars
ramming police checkpoints in south Armagh as "fantasy".

In the last two months, police have recorded four incidents involving
vehicles smashing through checkpoints near Crossmaglen.

In one of the most serious incidents, a police officer was taken to
hospital with serious head injuries after he was struck by a blue
Peugeot 406 while manning a joint police and army checkpoint outside
the village.

Speaking last night (Monday) as the British army launched an
investigation after yet another incident, Newry and South Armagh
assembly member Conor Murphy said local people were openly
questioning whether these reported incidents had taken place.

"At a time when Sinn Féin have placed the issue of British army
demilitarisation at the heart of the political agenda many local
people are questioning the validity of reports, all of which emanate
from the British Army or PSNI press operations, about a number of
cars breaking through checkpoints in the Crossmaglen area,'' he said.

"It seems strange that there have been more of these incidents
reported in the last three months than in the previous 10 years.''

Mr Murphy said the latest report of a car failing to stop at a
checkpoint south of Crossmaglen in the early hours of Saturday
morning, was being used as justification for the firing of live
rounds at a "passing car".

"There is a feeling locally that many of these stories about British
soldiers diving into hedges or receiving injuries from passing cars
are fantasy and part of a very clear agenda to justify the continuing
presence of the British military in south Armagh,'' he added.

A British army spokesman rejected the assembly member's comments
as "flippant remarks".

"I sincerely hope these suggestions are not representative of the
views of a political party claiming to hold a democratic mandate in a
society where law and order will prevail,'' he said.

"Police and soldiers have been perilously close to serious injury or
worse as a result of dangerous driving by individuals bent on
avoiding – for whatever reason – vehicle checkpoints.

"Checkpoints are set up to maintain law and order and will continue
for as long as it necessary to ensure the rule of law.''

He added that the reason there had been increased media coverage of
such incidents in recent months was because the police and army
were "no longer prepared'' to let the incidents go unreported.

December 15, 2004

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