THE Ministry of Defence has been criticised over its increasing use of the Newcastle Bay area for low flying jet aircraft exercises.
Twice in recent weeks Tornado jets have skimmed over properties in both Newcastle and Dundrum before returning to a flight path along the east coast of County Down.
Local residents believe the coastline is being used as part of a training exercise directly linked to the NATO controlled enforcement of the ‘no fly zone’ being operated in Libya against Colonel Gadaffi.
SDLP Councillor Eamonn O’Neill, Chairman of Down District Council, has warned that the continued use of airspace along the Mournes coastline by the RAF is causing “unacceptable suffering and distress for people living in the area.”
“In the most recent incident last Thursday the village of Dundrum was turned into a virtual playground for three jet fighters.
“They flew low over homes in what can only be described in an irresponsible manner. Nobody should be subjected to that type of terrifying action. I have very grave concerns that somebody with a heart complaint for example could suffer a seizure as a result the shock caused by these jets,” he said.
Councillor O’Neill described the actions of the pilots and their crew as acting like “boy racers in charge of a souped-up multi million pound piece of equipment.”
He added, “The problem is that people along the coast of County Down are not being given any advance warning of these low flying sorties.
“It’s not as though the flights are part of a flagged up tourism associated event like those involving the Red Arrows.
“This is completely different. We can have all the usual denials from the MoD about the jet exercises being completely separate from the NATO operation along the North African coast. However the public is not stupid. These exercises are not a coincidence.”
Tornadoes are based at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Marham and their specialist role is in low level attacks at day or night including bombing, and recognisance work. They are highly sophisticated war machines and are also currently assisting UK forces in Aphghanistan.