Belfast Telegraph

State papers: MP suggested putting ads on Army border watchtower

By Michael McHugh

A member of the NIO considered marketing advertising space on a military checkpoint on the border.

A prominent hilltop observation tower overlooking the main Belfast to Dublin road could have been decked out under suggestions to spruce up the untidy and forbidding Army structure during the Troubles. Unsightly defensive shields and barbed wire surrounded it.

A civil servant at Hillsborough Castle relayed the views of Peter Bottomley MP in 1990, who made the suggestion following a visit to the checkpoint.

Mr Bottomley was parliamentary private secretary to Peter Brooke, the Northern Ireland Secretary at the time.

The official wrote: "He was sure that an imaginative way could be found to smarten up and decorate security structures in a way that would not be out of keeping with their function but would at the same time produce a pleasingly aesthetic effect on travellers.

"A large sign saying 'Welcome to the Killeen checkpoint' would be a good start. He also wondered whether advertising space might not be sold on the observation tower."

The heavily-fortified Cloghogue/Killeen permanent vehicle checkpoint and observation tower was used during the conflict to monitor traffic on the border south of Newry, the busiest north/south route.

It survived rocket, bomb and gun attacks from the IRA after it was erected in 1988 following an explosion in which a family travelling in a car were killed.

At the height of the Troubles it encompassed a large area from the hilltop watchtower on Cloghogue mountain to the main Belfast to Dublin road.

It was decommissioned in 2003 after the end of the IRA's armed conflict.

The Army ended its Operation Banner in 2007.

All sides in the Brexit discussions insist there will be no return to the heavily militarised border of the past.

Details of official discussions about Cloghogue were released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The civil servant wrote: "The observation tower inevitably looked untidy, since it was necessary to deploy shields and barbed wire around it in order to detonate rockets and mortar shells before they hit the main structure."

It was described as a design problem requiring an imaginative fix.

Belfast Telegraph

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