Forestry workers on Slieve Gullion threatened

January 12, 2015

Contractors carrying out essential forestry maintenance on Slieve Gullion have been forced to leave the site after one of their workers was threatened by a masked man, The Examiner has learned.

The sinister incident occurred at the end of last month however details have only just been made public.

The team was involved in the clearing of an area of woodland affected by the invasive larch tree disease when an individual, whose face was obscured with a mask, approached one of the men in a threatening manner and told him to cease the work immediately and leave the site.

Fearing for their safety, bosses took the decision to remove their workers and machinery from the area and have remained off-site since.

Senior Forest Service officials have been meeting to discuss the issue, which has been described by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) as “very concerning”.

The incident has also been condemned by Sinn Fein MLA, Megan Fearon, who says she is seeking a meeting with Forestry officials to discuss the situation.

“This was a very sinister and frightening experience, not only for the person involved, but for all those working on this project. The contractors in fear of potential harm to themselves, their employees and plant, have now left the site,” she said.

“Any threat to people going about their day’s work is an attack on the whole community and those of us who live here in south Armagh are rightly outraged at these actions.”

She called on those behind the threat to rescind it immediately.

Her colleague, Councillor Mickey Larkin, says the threat has prompted concern.  Revealing that the main drive at Slieve Gullion Park is expected to temporarily close shortly to facilitate the movement of heavy machinery, he said: “I had hoped that inconvenience to local people and businesses in relation to this work would be kept, as far as practically possible, to a minimum, but this threat to workers has caused serious concerns.”

When contacted by The Examiner, a spokesman for DARD, under whose remit the forest on Slieve Gullion falls, described the incident as “a very concerning issue”.

“While no DARD staff have been threatened, the Forest Service has been advised that a threat was made to a contractor working on forestry land before Christmas. Senior Forest Service officials have been discussing the implications of this with the timber purchaser and would encourage anyone with information on this threat to share it with the PSNI,” the spokesman said.