DUBLIN — The British Army’s 25-year occupation of the Crossmaglen Rangers GAA grounds in South Armagh is set to end this summer. Although the British Northern Ireland secretary of state, Dr. Mo Mowlam, gave no time scale for the withdrawal, there have been indications that Crossmaglen will be vacated this summer at the latest, providing there is no worsening of the security situation.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern welcomed the announcement. "The occupation of the playing field has been a matter of deep concern for the GAA throughout the island of Ireland and I am personally delighted that the occupation will conclude shortly," he said.
There was also strong support for the initiative from GAA President Joe McDonagh. "The occupation of the grounds by the security forces and the associated harassment and disruption for over a quarter of a century has been a source of deep felt injustice and resentment," McDonagh said. "The announcement of the withdrawal is to be unreservedly welcomed."
The removal of the British Army from the Crossmaglen lands would bring to an end one of Irish sport’s most bitter and enduring sagas. While the Crossmaglen Rangers club has fought tooth and nail but without success to force the Army off their property, it has remained successful on the field, winning two of the last three All-Ireland club football titles.