Daily Ireland

Armed RIR soldiers chase man into school grounds

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A 28-year-old south Armagh man feared he was going to be shot last week after being chased by a group of Royal Irish Regiment soldiers.
Local residents and concerned parents in Ballymacnab are outraged after the armed soldiers chased Gary Donnelly onto the grounds of a primary school.
The incident arose at Foley Primary School in Ballymacnab after Mr Donnelly had been stopped at an RIR patrol along the Collmillish Road as he walked to work.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Ireland, Mr Donnelly said, “I was walking to work and there was a checkpoint on the road.
“The soldiers started asking me for details and, when I didn’t answer them, I was told that they could arrest me under the Terrorism Act.
“They tried to hold me and were grabbing at me so I decided to run away from them. They came after me and I thought I was going to be shot.
“The only place I could think of going to was to the local primary school. I ran into the school and went into a classroom. I asked the teacher if I could wait there and then I noticed the soldiers coming into the school grounds after me so I tried to get away from them.
“They caught me and the secretary of the school came out and pleaded with them to let me go. It’s totally out of order that they can treat people like this.”
Mr Donnelly has an injured shoulder after the incident and is now worried that the RIR will come after him again.
Local Sinn Féin assembly member Conor Murphy said, “Fully armed RIR soldiers should have no place in our primary schools.
“Both the principal and school secretary were forced to intervene and it goes without saying that the victim was immediately released following this frightening and horrific ordeal.”
Daily Ireland has obtained a letter sent from school principal Mr M Kelly to parents about the incident. In the letter, he said, “I was extremely concerned for the welfare of the children and staff of the school. Apart from the trauma and distress these events may have caused, I was also concerned that a weapon might have been discharged. Thankfully, this did not occur.”
A spokesperson for the British armed forces said, “We can confirm that a man who had been acting suspiciously was apprehended briefly on Wednesday morning on the grounds of the school.
“Acting suspiciously and then verbally abusing the soldiers, he was asked by the patrol for his personal details and then ran away into the school grounds.
“He was subseqently apprehended by members of the patrol in the school grounds.
“We sincerely regret any distress caused to anyone who may have witnessed the incident.”

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