British Military Fortifications, South Armagh 2005
Over 750yrs after Castle Roche was built by the British to keep watch on the rebellious natives of South Armagh (see previous posting), there is today a network of British army watchtowers built to monitor the local predominantly republican population along the border with the Irish Republic.
What is fascinating for visitors to this area is to see isolated little villages and towns in this region openly display banners and memorials to the IRA.
No more so than in Crossmaglen, a town dominated by a large British Army watchtower and the constant sounds & sights of military helicopters flying in and out of the heavily fortified police base.
The military presence seems totally alien to the local landscape. There is no connectivity with the population whatsoever and the soldiers and police are treated as outsiders and occupiers.
A few years ago, I brought some friends into Crossmaglen for a days outing. As we went into a bar for a few drinks, everyone in the premises stopped talking and gazed in our direction. You could hear a pin drop. Nothing was said until I placed my order with the bartender. As my Dublin accent permeated the room, the locals then suddenly relaxed and, with a small outbreak of laughter, they then continued with their conversations! Until I spoke, they had suspected that we were a bunch of off-duty British military personnel!!