03 June 2005


Going going

Work finally begins on bringing down Girdwood
barracks, a place SF has branded North Belfast’s ‘Guantanamo Bay’

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Girdwood army barracks was this morning being dismantled, bringing a legacy of the British army in North Belfast to a final and ignominious end.
A Sinn Féin councillor has branded the base in which Catholics were tortured throughout the conflict, as the “end to our Guantanamo Bay”.
And the new SDLP deputy mayor of Belfast, Pat Convery, also welcomed the start of work to demolish the massive base and called for a strategic plan to put the land to public use.
An MoD spokesman this morning confirmed work had started on the site that cuts a swathe through North Belfast.
Asked how long it would take contractors to demolish Girdwood, the spokesman said: “as long as it takes, but as soon as possible”.
Workmen were working on dismantling the communications towers and two huge cranes have been commissioned to take the base apart.
“The military installations will go first and the sangars and then the rest of the base,” said the British army spokesman.
The land is to be passed onto the Department of Social Development (DSD) but no decision has been made on what will replace it.
A DSD spokeswoman said the property still belonged to the MoD.
“It’s still MoD property and we have nothing to do with it until it’s passed onto the department.”
Pat Convery called for a “strategic approach” on the future of the site.
“I welcome this development. It shows that Girdwood is now being demolished and hopefully there will be a multi-purpose use for it,” he said.
“It can be used for housing, health care and leisure resources and business development in the community.”
Danny Lavery said “good riddance to Girdwood”.
“We are happy and grateful that Girdwood barracks is coming down after much pressure to go from Sinn Féin. This ends over 30 years of a legacy of murder, injustice, abuse and torture meted out to the nationalist community from within the walls of this base in North Belfast,” he said.

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon

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