Work is under way to dismantle the last significant British military installation in south Armagh.

The watchtower at Crossmaglen police station is being removed as part of the British government's normalisation plans.

Preliminary work began yesterday with the removal of a metal cage that protected the base from rocket attack.

The sangar will be lifted from the tower by a crane and the rest of the structure will then be dismantled.

In recent months the British army's presence at the Crossmaglen base has been reduced and the site will now only be used as a police station.

The guard post was constructed in 1992 to protect British soldiers and police officers at a time when security forces could only travel to the then RUC station by helicopter.

The base was attacked by the IRA on several occasions during the Troubles.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP welcomed the demilitarisation move, but unionists criticised its timing claiming it was being done for reasons of political expediency and coming in the middle of an election.

The normalisation process in Northern Ireland has been continuing apace in recent years.

Military support to the PSNI will finish at the end of July and the British Army will then be reduced to 5,000 personnel at ten sites throughout Northern Ireland.

Dismantling of the military presence in Crossmaglen is seen as highly symbolic, given the village's location in the heart of a strongly republican area.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Bobby Hunniford said the work in Crossmaglen was 'a significant step as part of the ongoing normalisation process'.

'We want to work with the community and we want to deliver policing in south Armagh in the same way that policing is being delivered anywhere in Northern Ireland', he added.