Dismantling of Divis Tower post begins


British troops yesterday began dismantling the observation post on Divis Tower which overlooks Gerry Adams's west Belfast constituency.

The post, which has been there for three decades, comprises rooftop buildings and equipment and, more recently, the top 18th and 19th floors of the block of flats.

The work is expected to take months before Housing Executive developers are able to renovate the property as living accommodation. This has led to expectation that, because of its history and location, the 10 new residential apartments on the top two floors could be among the most desired in Belfast.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, accompanied by MEP Bairbre de Brún and Assembly member Fra McCann viewed the dismantling work yesterday.

Mr Adams, conscious of the symbolism of the event, said no one should worry about the length of time needed for the army to quit the building.

He denied British claims that the observation equipment helped protect the people of the area.

"The British army should never have been here at all and they served no useful purpose here on Divis Tower," he said.

"We are told that it was there for our protection, but people were killed in my constituency office, people were killed in this neighbourhood, all within sight of the squaddies on this tower." Soldiers, working on one of the tallest buildings in the city, could be seen from many points across Belfast throughout the day.

Asked about anticipated moves by the IRA to decommission, Mr Adams said: "I'm not going to speculate on any of that."

"The IRA has made its commitments on that. It's between the IRA and the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning."

Reports last night said IICD head Gen John de Chastelain had returned to Canada following renewed contact with an IRA representative, dampening expectation of an early move by the IRA to put weapons beyond use. Political sources in Dublin remain confident of an IRA move, but not an imminent one.