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Flying school plans axed amid fears on security

Security fears forced the Air Ministry in London to ditch plans to open two flying schools in Northern Ireland during the 1950s, official documents have revealed.

SAccording to confidential memos released by the Public Records Office, the ministry had hoped to set up two schools at Bishopscourt in Co Fermanagh and Langford Lodge, Co Antrim, to train airmen in navigation.

In a letter sent to the Stormont administration, a Mr M H O'Grady raised the issue of reciprocal overflying with the Republic. Mr O'Grady said it would be valuable for pilots based in Northern Ireland to occasionally “overfly Eire airspace” on training exercises, but claimed that the Irish would want the same courtesy for the skies over Northern Ireland.

Mr O’Grady wanted Stormont politicians to liaise with their Dublin counterparts to see if an accommodation could be reached but hinted that he was aware of possible difficulties.

In a letter to the Northern Ireland liaison officer in Whitehall A J Kelly, which was released to the BBC, Mr O’Grady wrote: “Such right might, if exercised, cause no small uproar in the North, particularly if organised so as to overfly Londonderry on July 12 which I am credibly informed is the anniversary of a memorable fracas on the Boyne.”

In his response, an A Robinson at Stormont said that the matter was a political one rather than a security issue and thought it unlikely that “an Eire plane would smoke-write in the skies on July 12 such heretical sentiments as ‘Up James!”

But Mr Robinson noted there was the potential for “nasty talk” if in the “unlikely” case an Irish plane carrying a tricolour overflew a field being used for an Orange Order Twelfth demonstration.

As it turned out, according to the documents, the unionist Prime Minister of the time Sir Basil Brooke vetoed the plans because of the views because “there are serious objections to granting such a request in view of the attitude of the authorities in the Republic to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland”.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph