>> 30 Jul 2004

Shooting from the Lip


John Dallat, the SDLP's most esteemed bigot, is vexated about the ongoing practice of the Ministry of Defence using Magilligan Beach in County Londonderry as a shooting range for HM Forces.  He and a colleague are demanding immediate access to the area for 'holidaymakers' and 'locals' alike.

Now I know nationalists are absolutely fantastic at finding the most pathetic excuses imaginable to justify 'demilitarisation', but this article is amazing even by their warped standards.  Magilligan Beach is a small stretch of sand lining the mouth of Lough Foyle.  Its tourist trappings consist of a Martello Tower and a small, rather shabby pub.  Between the beach and the main A2 coast road the area is largely salt marsh, dominated by the sinister monolith of Magilligan Prison.  It is customary for the MoD to site shooting and/or missile testing ranges in sparsely populated areas throughout the United Kingdom.  For example, Luce Bay in southern Scotland and Selker Bay in west Cumbria are two other places where this is in evidence.  The tourist appeal of these two areas is in no way diminished by the presence of MoD facilities.

Whereas Magilligan Beach is small and compact, the neighbouring Benone Strand consists of a five-mile stretch of perhaps the best overall beach in Britain.  Benone Strand is open to all and is far more attractive than its counterpart on the Foyle estuary.  So why is Dallat et al so concerned about removing restrictions to an area with considerably less in the way of lure?  The answer is simple!!  Dallat's proposals have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with providing benefit to the tourist industry.  They have everything to do with making Northern Ireland 'that little bit different' from the rest of the United Kingdom.  Small, almost imperceptible changes are wholly designed to make the province much less like the rest of the Union, and much more like the hostile, supposedly neutral polity on its southern flank.  Gradually reducing the Army's visible presence in the province goes some way to making this aspiration a reality.  Elected representatives like Dallat would be far less of an insult to our intelligence if they were more open about the reasons for their invidious ideas.


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