New row brews over state of wartime bunkers

ALMOST a year ago, Alderman Woolsey Smith saved Northern Ireland's wartime look-out posts from the bulldozers - and elicited a pledge from the borough council that the seven 'pillboxes' in Craigavon would be tidied up and identified as part of the area's history.

"The council accepted my proposal that a meeting should be arranged with the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) - a branch of the DoE - to discuss how the matter should be progressed," said Alderman Smith. "To date, they have done nothing, but I am raising the issue again at the council meeting on the first Monday in October.

"The surroundings of the look-out posts are a disgrace, and there isn't even a plaque on them to say what their purpose was.

"I said during the debate - which was in November 2006 - that the pillboxes are an important part of our history, and that they should be marked with a nameplate and a brief synopsis of what they are all about.

eyesore

"I also called for proper landscaping around them and that their surroundings should be tidied up. The council never did meet with the EHS and far from being a boon to the area, the pillboxes are an eyesore."

The issue has been placed on the October agenda, and Mayor Robert Smith (Alderman Smith's son) has promised he will take the proposal on board.

"It isn't fair that this has not been progressed," said the Mayor. "I have seen the minutes of the debate - it was on November 6, 2006 - that a meeting was to have been arranged with the EHS and I will be asking why it hasn't materialised.

historian

"I agree these pillboxes are an important part of the area's history, and I'm proud that my father has had them protected."

The meeting also showed that Alderman Smith had previously spoken to local historian James Kane to see what was required, and the council agreed that their significance should be understood.

Mr Kane is an RAF veteran, and he, too, said he was disappointed that no follow-up meeting had taken place.

James said, "The condition of the pillboxes is an insult to the people who gave their lives for their country. Friends of mine made the supreme sacrifice and it's high time these pillboxes were made presentable and the general public realised their history."

There are three pillboxes at Drumlin Hill, two at Bleary and one each at Tandragee Road, Portadown, and at the town's old station site in Watson Street.