Army defended over major exercise near Magilligan

Binevenagh Cliffs
Binevenagh Cliffs

Nationalist criticism of military manoeuvres near Magilligan has been described as “totally out of order” by a DUP MLA for the area.

Adrian McQuillan was responding to comments from both Sinn Fein and SDLP representatives who said the week-long exercise was “unwanted” and “provocative”.

Mr McQuillan said the fact that locally based soldiers were able to train in the Binevenagh area of the Province was a sign that the Troubles were a thing of the past.

“We are being told day and daily that we have moved on to a new era. Are we moved on or are we not?

“It’s part of being normal that they have the confidence that they can come and do this here. This is a part of the United Kingdom, and it’s the United Kingdom army here doing the training so what is the problem?

“This is just a case of Sinn Fein being green and the SDLP trying to be greener,” the East Londonderry MLA added.

Personnel from Holywood-based 1 Scots are involved in exercise Shamrock Mayne which is designed to reinforce basic military tactics and increase fitness levels. The training programme, which began on Monday, will also test the casualty extraction, medical support, reconnaissance and personal survival capabilities of up to 500 troops.

A number of military reservists will be taking part in the manoeuvres along with their regular Army counterparts this weekend.

Earlier this week, Sinn Fein MLA Cathal O hOisin said the exercise was “insensitive”.

He added: “The sight of heavily armed British soldiers on our roads could be interpreted as provocative.”

Yesterday, John Dallat of the SDLP said: “The fact this ‘exercise’ has been highly published by the British Army reflects the high level of arrogance that exists within their senior ranks.

“Any assurance disruption will be kept to an absolute minimum is taken with a pinch of salt by locals who were getting used to life without low-flying helicopters, and all the other trappings of war and its brutal images.”

He added: “It is insensitive for the British Army to be bringing their war machine here to turn Binevenagh into a war zone, and the brigadiers and majors should realise the sensitivity of what they are doing and take their war games elsewhere.”

Major Nick Colquhoun of 1 Scots said: “This exercise is not a summer camp – it’s going to put men and women into situations where they will be tested, challenged but hugely satisfied with their achievements at the end of it.”

The MOD has declined to respond to the criticism.

• The latest Army battalion to be based at Palace Barracks will be officially welcomed to Holywood in north Down with a parade through the town.

At the invitation of the local council, The Royal Scots Borderers will march behind the Regimental Band and Pipes and Drums - at 11am on Thursday, October 2 - to formalise their transfer to the area from Edinburgh.

Commanding Officer Lt Col Matt Munro said it had been an enjoyable start to life in Northern Ireland.

“The local community have gone out of their way to make us all feel very welcome,” he said.