Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

PSNI station in republican heartland of south Armagh up for auction with a reserve of £95,000

FORTRESS FOR SALE: Keady PSNI station
FORTRESS FOR SALE: Keady PSNI station

A cop shop in the republican heartland of south Armagh is being flogged at auction.

The former RUC/PSNI base in the village of Keady, close to the border, is on the market with a reserve of £95,000 for the BTW Shiells sale later this month.

Stormont’s regional development minister Danny Kennedy said he was sad to see that the day the 1.37 acre site was being sold had finally come.

The Newry & Armagh MLA said: “There was a very strong case to be made for the retention of Keady police station.

“Its physical presence had given reassurance to the local community, and crime statistics supported this.

“We cannot disregard the ongoing threat posed by republican dissidents in the area and a prime example of this was the viable device left outside the station four years ago.”

The police station was bombarded by attacks in the area dubbed ‘Bandit Country’ during the Troubles, which saw loss of life for officers and terrorists alike.

In 1972 the IRA launched a gun and bomb attack at Keady RUC station.

Among the wounded was Catholic officer Frank Murphy, who had joined the force the year before.

BATTLE

The dad-of-three rose to the rank of sergeant when was shot dead in February, 1985 while operating a community minibus that had taken 15 children to a school quiz in Armagh.

Michael McVerry, 23, was shot dead by soldiers after placing a 100lb bomb at the station on November 15, 1973.

The device badly damaged the station and a second bomb failed to detonate near a guardroom before there was a ‘running battle’ between five IRA gunmen and police and soldiers, which saw one policeman shot in the shoulder.

McVerry became the first IRA man in south Armagh to be killed in the

Troubles after being hit in the stomach in the gunfight, while another IRA man was wounded and dragged into a car that sped off towards the border.

McVerry, who lost a hand in a premature explosion, was said to have had ‘folk hero’ status in the area among republicans.

At the time he was on the run from custody in the Republic and was wanted for questioning for more than 10 murders.

Crane operator Nigel McCollum, 25, was killed on March 8, 1993 when the IRA’s south Armagh brigade lobbed three so-called ‘ barrack buster’ mortar bombs into the joint Army and RUC base at Keady.

It was one of three horrific Troubles murders to hit the family — his grandmother Lily was killed by a bomb in her farmyard 10 years previously.

Then a year later, in May 1994, RIR soldier Reginald, the 19-year-old brother of Nigel, was kidnapped and shot by the IRA after a stag party with pals at an Armagh pub.

Even after the Troubles ended, the station was targeted by dissidents.

On February 19, 2010, a mortar bomb was abandoned in a van in Davis Street, close to the station.

The viable device which police said “had the potential to cause death or serious injury” was made safe and removed for further examination.

SADDENED

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin said before that the decision to close the facility would “send the wrong signals” to criminals.

He said: “The decision to close it in my opinion sent the wrong signal to criminal elements and could be seen as a relaxation of security. I know people in the area will be saddened by this news and, of course, we think of the many officers who made the ultimate sacrifice for law and order in this area during the darkest days of the Troubles.”

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