500 more troops withdrawn from North

26/01/2005 - 16:35:53

Another 500 troops have been withdrawn from Northern Ireland duties as part of new moves to scale down security, it emerged today.

Military bosses have decided police can deal with the terrorist threat without 1st Battalion King’s Own Royal Border Regiment back-up.

A barracks in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, from where the unit operated, is also being shut down, Chief Constable Hugh Orde announced.

Even though 1st King’s Own Border had been based at North Luffenham in Rutland since September, they remained under the control of Sir Philip Trousdell, the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland.

Trousdell confirmed today: “The re-assignment of a rear-based battalion seldom deployed to Northern Ireland is made possible by the success of the police service in dealing with the treat of terrorism with reduced military support.

“It will not affect the Army’s support to the PSNI in counter terrorism and public order operations.

“The Army will continue to keep numbers of personnel in Northern Ireland under regular review so as to provide optimum support to the PSNI.”

His decision to transfer the unit to Land Command headquarters at Wilton, Salisbury, was part of a joint move with Mr Orde.

It means around 10,500 troops are left serving in Northern Ireland.

The Chief Constable also revealed the military base at Killymeal House in Dungannon was to shut.

The closure, which is expected to take six months to complete, is to ensure military resources are being used effectively and efficiently and will not have an impact on the Army’s ability to provide assistance, police stressed.

An Ulster Unionist Assembly member for the area hit out at the move, claiming it was too soon.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Tom Elliott said: “This latest government decision is premature and ill-advised given the current political climate.

“With ongoing criminality and paramilitarism by republicans, coupled with a government which seems apparently desperate to keep them on board at any price, you could be forgiven for thinking that this latest closure owes more to political expediency than operational necessity.

“It is galling once again to see that those who promised to end concessions have once again been found wanting and powerless to act.”

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