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About 500 British troops are to train on this Derry mountain and nationalists aren't happy

It’s the largest military exercise in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the troubles

The cliffs near the summit of Binevenagh Mountain in Co. Derry
The cliffs near the summit of Binevenagh Mountain in Co. Derry
Image: Flickr/dr_urbanus

A LARGE SCALE British Army training exercise planned for Derry next week has been described as an “invasion of troops” by nationalist politicians.

About 500 British troops are expected to take part in drills on a number of scenic parts of the county next week including Binevenagh mountain and Magilligan.

It’s the largest British Army exercise in Northern Ireland since before the Troubles and both Sinn Féin and the SDLP say that they are an unfortunate reminder of a dark history.

The SDLP’s local MLA John Dallat has said that locals have “experienced a great deal of normality and peace” since troops were withdrawn from the area:

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.

The British Army has defended the plans with Lieutenant Colonel Matt Monroe of the Royal Scots Borderers said telling BBC News that it is a “really important” exercise.

“From a security perspective, it would have been really difficult to have run this exercise during Operation Banner,” he said.

Operation Banner was the the British army’s operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007.

“It’s right to do it now, because we face an uncertain future, there’s a tremendous amount going on in the world so it’s important that our soldiers are prepared appropriately and well,” he added.

But Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has said that the current difficulties in Stormont mean the timing of the exercises are particularly “insensitive”.

“Given the current difficulties facing the political process, the sight of heavily armed British soldiers on our roads could be interpreted as provocative. The British army will be using this exercise to train for imperialist wars that have no popular support in this area,” he said.

Ó hOisín also claimed that the last time the area was used for exercises the British military left “piles of rubbish on the mountain”.

Read: ‘Step away from conflict’: Martin McGuinness’s peace plea to dissidents >

Read: Lorry hijacked and driver ordered to take suspicious object to police station >

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Rónán Duffy

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