Republicans celebrate police station's closure with a storming of the barricades

REPUBLICAN protesters burst through the security gates of one of the most attacked police stations in the North yesterday.

A crowd of 100 Sinn Fein supporters held a protest outside Andersonstown Police Station in west Belfast, which closed its doors yesterday in preparation for demolition next month.

As a senior police officer prepared to stage a press conference to cover the closure, a number of protesters made their way through the security gates but did not gain access to the station.

They left peacefully after making a token protest.

Chief Inspector Peter Farrar said police did not plan to take any action following the breaching of the security cordon.

He said: "Every police station is a public building and we aim to serve the public and that's all members of the public. Our only purpose within west Belfast is to make west Belfast safer."

Mr Farrar said the closure of Andersonstown, which was established in 1887, was the end of an era for policing in the area.

"There are mixed emotions when any police station closes. Police officers worked here for over 100 years so there are many happy memories and some tragic and sad memories.

"Society has changed and policing has changed across Northern Ireland so we are trying to keep up with society by making sure what we are doing is the most effective and progressive way of policing in west Belfast," he added.

Work has begun to dismantle the base, with the communications mast and other equipment already removed.

Three other stations in the area, Grosvenor Road, Woodbourne and New Barnsley, will remain open to provide policing in the west of the city.

Sinn Fein Assembly member for the area, Michael Ferguson, said no tears would be shed by republicans over the closure.

"Let's not forget the base that the Special Branch watched while they sent their agent Michael Stone into Milltown to murder mourners at a funeral," he said.

The station closure was recommended by the local district commander in 2003 and endorsed by the Northern Ireland Policing Board last month.

Gary Kelly

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