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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Troop withdrawal plan published
Army watchtowers
More army watchtowers are to be demolished
The Army has published a timetable for the withdrawal of troops and the closure of bases in Northern Ireland.

At present there are just over 9,000 troops in the province, but that will be reduced to no more than 5,000 by 1 August 2007.

The number of sites where troops are stationed will be reduced to 14 from about 40 in the next year and more watchtowers will be demolished.

The moves are part of the government's security normalisation plans.

It is all part of the end of Operation Banner, the Army's support role for the police during the Troubles.

It has been running for 35 years and is the longest operation in British Army history.

It will end on 1 August next year and by then the Army presence in Northern Ireland will have been radically reduced.

'Other significant bases'

Details of the numbers have been known for some time. However, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram has announced details of the timetable.

During the next 12 months, the five remaining watchtowers in south Armagh will be demolished and the Army will also be withdrawn from most police stations where they still have a presence, including Crossmaglen.

Mahon Road barracks in Portadown, a base for the security forces during the Drumcree standoffs, will be closed by January.

Other significant bases being closed as part of the process include Bessbrook Mill in south Armagh.

Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brun said the cut was overdue.

"The issue of demilitarisation is one where the British government had clearly dragged its heels," she said.

"Post-July last year, after some negotiations with Sinn Fein, there clearly was some progress.

"There is more work still to be done, and if this is part of that, then we welcome that."




SEE ALSO:
Demilitarisation moves announced
01 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Demilitarisation plans reaction
01 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Watchtower demolition is halted
24 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland


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