Peace forest sprouts at former Army base in Forkhill
A former military barracks in Forkhill is to be transformed into a peace forest for use by the community after 1,000 native trees were planted there to remember victims of the Troubles.
Local schoolchildren joined with Forest Friends Ireland, the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, the Peace Forest Ireland Project and the Woodland Trust NI to plant the trees earlier this week.
The former south Armagh security base will also feature a wildflower meadow and a path for people to use.
A further 2,000 trees were planted near Rebel Hill at Bailieborough, south of the border.
The arboreal memorial is the brainchild of Forest Friends Ireland chairman John Haughton, who aims to commemorate all the victims of the Troubles.
"Thousands of people lost their lives in the Troubles, and Forkhill is a former military base while Rebel Hill has links to the 1798 rebellion," he explained.
"The sites hadn't been planned that way but it all came together.
"This is a direct project to get the communities involved in planting trees and by doing this we hope we will strengthen the peace process.
"It was like a dream come true to see the schoolkids from St Oliver Plunkett's Primary School in Forkhill come along and get involved with the planting."
Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership manager Darren Rice said that the Forkhill site had been covered in "debris and old concrete blocks" before the initiative.
"Forkhill is set to open to the public in the next couple of weeks as a public park," he said.
"We have planted a mix of native trees such as oak, willow, birch, hazel and blackthorn and in five years they will have grown enough to be a big, young forest.
"The symbolism is that we are getting young people and schoolchildren to plant trees so they are able to give a positive message to the future. We are giving the space back to nature."
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council chair Gillian Fitzpatrick said: "The idea of the peace forest is to bring communities closer together in the planting of trees."