Work underway to dismantle Belfast base


Work got underway today to dismantle one of Belfast's best known police stations.

A communications mast was removed from Andersonstown station in west Belfast ahead of its demolition next month.

Police will formally leave the site on January 23rd.

During the Troubles, the  station which towers over a roundabout facing the Falls Road, Milltown Cemetery and the Glen Road, witnessed many killings of republicans, civilians and police officers.

It was also the focus of many protests against the police.

The decision to close the station was taken last month by the Northern Ireland Policing Board on the recommendation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's District Commander in west Belfast, Chief Superintendent David Boultwood.

Andersonstown station has operated limited opening hours since last July and all community policing has been based at other stations in the area for over 18 months.

Chief Superintendent David Boultwood said the station was closing because it was no longer suitable for the type of policing required in the area.

"Policing has changed dramatically since this building was established and it is important that we make decisions which reflect these changes," he said.

"Andersonstown police station is no longer fit for purpose and its closure next weekend will assist us in consolidating our resources.

"This consolidation will assist in the provision of a more efficient, effective and accountable police service to the people of West Belfast."

The station was established in 1887 to replace another in Hannastown and has been part of West Belfast district from 1897.

Once demolition is completed, the site will be put up for sale.

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said the demolition was proof of the power of Northern Ireland's Policing Board.

"Only six weeks ago, the board decided to close Andersonstown and quickly the police have moved to vacate the site," the West Belfast MLA said.

"In one swoop the board and the police have done more to normalise policing than others who have spent months negotiating and normalised nothing.

"The real issue now is the future of the site. This landmark site needs a landmark building representing the future.

"No one should forget that police officers were attacked and killed in and around the station and that many many civilians were hurt and abused by policing practice in the past.

"This needs to be remembered and the site developed symbolising the future and the best of West Belfast."