02 January 2006

British admit army incursion did occur

Irish Independent

Patsy McArdle
and Senan Molony

THE British government has admitted an incursion into the Republic by a patrol of armed soldiers, the Minister for Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday.

The incursion into sovereign Irish territory occurred last July and was initially denied by the British Army.

Mr Ahern said the British authorities had now "admitted the incursion did occur, and apologised for the earlier denial". The minister said he received a report on the matter some days ago and now had concerns over the circumstances of the denial at the time.

A meeting of the North Louth Fianna Fail Comhairle Ceanntar heard Mr Ahern tell delegates that the British security forces in the North had "blatantly lied" when they denied there was any cross-border incursion.

"The cross-border incursion has now been accepted, although at the time it was denied by the British military people," said Mr Ahern on LMFM (Louth-Meath local radio) at the weekend.

He was not prepared to elaborate because of the sensitivity of cross border relations.

Gardai were called to Rasson, in north Louth - about half a mile from the border - on July 7 last year after residents in north Louth intercepted members of a British Army foot patrol. The soldiers were accompanied by at least two PSNI officers and had taken positions on the Dundalk/Castleblayney roadway. An ugly incident developed when some stones were thrown at the patrol, forcing them to back towards the border. A helicopter which had dropped the patrol later landed within Northern Ireland to pick up the patrol and PSNI members.

When the incident was reported by the media, the British Army denied any soldiers were in the South, claiming that no patrol was operating in the region on that particular date.

But gardai from Hackballscross and Dundalk garda stations had already prepared a report which was submitted to the Department of Justice confirming the incident.

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