Described as “bandit country” in 1974 by then Northern Ireland Secretary Mervyn Rees, south Armagh witnessed the most attacks against members of the security forces per square mile, quickly becoming known as the most dangerous posting for a member of the Army.
The heavily fortified Crossmaglen police and army base, with military watchtowers dotted along the rural landscape, was a symbol of the border conflict.
Since the 1970s, policing in the area has always been on a military footing.
The old Army base and watchtowers were dismantled in 2006/7, but the PSNI station on Cullaville Road in the south Armagh village remains one of the most heavily fortified in Northern Ireland.
This far-from-normalised policing was highlighted in 2019, when Chief Constable Simon Byrne, just five months into the job, posed for pictures on Christmas Day with officers stationed in Crossmaglen.
Mr Byrne tweeted to his followers that it was “great to meet the team policing Crossmaglen”, adding: “I take my hat off to colleagues policing such a unique part of @PoliceServiceNI. Their sense of duty & optimism is inspiring. Stay safe and thank you.”
It was accompanied by a picture of him standing with other officers, two of whom were holding Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifles fitted with infrared night-sights.
The picture was criticised by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.
Mr Byrne later apologised, saying his message was “never meant as a comment on the community of Crossmaglen and south Armagh”.
After meeting both parties, Mr Byrne announced that he was commissioning a review of policing in south Armagh.
The history of policing in the area has always been a fraught one.
In August 1970, a car bomb killed two RUC officers at Crossmaglen. Following the IRA attack, the Army started to partially block off the border.
According to a 1971 report on the border closure, 51 roads were closed using spikes. Local people reacted angrily, and over the next two months there were 83 recorded incidents of the blocks being removed from 29 different roads.
Locals would reopen roads at the weekend, and the Army would close them again during the week.
The close proximity to the border made it easy for the IRA, which knew the rural terrain, to launch attacks on the soldiers stationed there. Before the introduction of internment in August 1971, there were four border incidents reported per month. After the policy came into force, there were 33.
By the mid 1970s, south Armagh would eclipse other areas as the main problem from a security standpoint for the Army and RUC.
Toby Harden’s acclaimed book Bandit Country documented the key figures responsible for the bulk of IRA activity in the area and the local opposition to the military style occupation of the area.
In the mid 1970s, the Army took part of Crossmaglen Rangers GAC’s ground for the extended Army base that remained in place until the last soldiers left at the end of the Operation Banner, the name for the Army’s operation in Northern Ireland.
Soldiers stationed there, along with the RUC, only left and arrived in the area via helicopter due to the level of threat that existed in XMG, the Army’s code name for Crossmaglen.
Between 1970 and 1997, the IRA were responsible for the deaths of 123 British soldiers and 42 RUC officers in south Armagh. There were 75 civilians from the rural area killed. Ten members of the IRA’s South Armagh Brigade were also killed.
Following the Good Friday Agreement and the 2001 transfer of policing from the RUC to the PSNI, there was a hope that the area could be completely demilitarised and that there could be a slow building of normalised policing.
However, the PSNI station has remained a target for attacks by republicans.
In December 2009, shots were fired at the station. A few months later, dissident republicans fired shots at the gates of the station. No one was injured in either attack.
In 2001, there were 21 officers and three soldiers injured when a 100-strong republican mob tried to storm two Army watchtowers and broke into the police station.
Two police officers were airlifted to hospital with head wounds. One of the soldiers suffered burns.
Four people from Belfast were arrested and detained for suspected public order offences.
The trouble broke out during an Ogra Sinn Fein Youth demonstration against what the party said was the slow pace of demilitarisation in the border region.
In 2012, a Monaghan man was jailed after admitting attempting to bomb the PSNI station. A device had been loaded into a stolen car and left outside Crossmaglen station but failed to detonate on April 3, 2010.
The assessed threat level remains so high that officers stationed in Crossmaglen work in four-day shifts, living in the station for the duration of their time on duty.
During the Brexit debate the possibility of a hard border had those opposed to further station closures arguing that all PSNI estate at the border, including Crossmaglen station, should be retained for security.
However, a report that looked at the views of the local community, the militarised style of policing in south Armagh and the financial viability of the station, has recommended that it now be permanently closed.
If approved, it will bring to an end a 50-year history of a permanent policing presence in Crossmaglen.