Complaints about appearance of ‘frightening’ Border checkpoints

US consul general in Northern Ireland refers to ‘unacceptable delay’ at Border

Douglas B Archard was impelled to complain to the head of the Northern Ireland civil service, David Fell (above) about an unacceptable delay he had experienced at the Cloghoge checkpoint on the Newry-Dundalk road. Photograph: Paddy Whelan.

Douglas B Archard was impelled to complain to the head of the Northern Ireland civil service, David Fell (above) about an unacceptable delay he had experienced at the Cloghoge checkpoint on the Newry-Dundalk road. Photograph: Paddy Whelan.

 

The “unsightly and frightening appearance” of many cross-Border checkpoints in the early 1990s and inordinate delays caused by the British army units is highlighted in previously confidential files released on Friday in Belfast. Among the complainants was the US consul general in Belfast who resented being held up by troops without good reason.

The issue was first raised with the authorities by the chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), Sir Hugh O’Neill on May 9th, 1990. Writing to the NIO under-secretary, Richard Needham, O’Neill expressed concern at “the intimidating appearance of the surface entry points into NI from the Republic”.

Noting that most visitors entered the North from the South, O’Neill asked if more could be done on the Border “so as to give a more friendly welcome to the visitor”.

Three years later, in April 1993, the US consul general in Northern Ireland, Douglas B Archard was impelled to complain to the head of the Northern Ireland civil service, David Fell about an unacceptable delay he had experienced at the Cloghoge checkpoint on the Newry-Dundalk road.

The diplomat had been attending the opening of the Slieve Gullion Courtyard, sponsored by the International Fund for Ireland as a tourist enhancement project when the incident occurred.

He told the Stormont official that he had been held up at Cloghoge checkpoint for 30 minutes “for no good reason”. Such delays, Archard stressed, were unlikely to assist tourism. “A person less charitable to the security forces than I am would ascribe the delay to harassment of the population by the security forces.” The diplomat concluded: “I wonder how often one would return, even to such a beautiful place as Slieve Gullion, if a visit means wasting so much time waiting to have a licence plate read.”

In his reply, dated May 26th, 1993, Fell suggested that the US consul might wish to complain directly to the military.