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BBC NI's David Morgan
Work has begun on the dismantling of the army posts
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Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy
"Security forces must continue assessing the threat"
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BBC NI's Jane McClenahan reports
People living in the New Lodge area give their reaction
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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 20:55 GMT 21:55 UK
Army posts being removed

Soldiers will be moving out of their installations
Work to dismantle two British Army observation posts in Belfast is under way as part of a process of scaling down its presence in Northern Ireland.

Preliminary work to remove two other bases in County Tyrone and in south Armagh has already begun.

The decision to remove the observation posts was taken following the IRA offer to put its "arms beyond use" on 6 May.

The army has occupied the high ground above Maeve House in the nationalist New Lodge area of north Belfast for three decades.

A similar post sits high above west Belfast on top of a nurses' home at Broadway.

We have to remember that all these installations have been, and will continue to be, extremely important

Danny Kennedy
The soldiers who have manned them will be leaving their posts, and preparations are under way for their departure.

It is expected to take a number of weeks before the sites are handed back to their original owners.

Preliminary work to dismantle bases in Cookstown in County Tyrone and at Cloghogue in south Armagh has also begun.

The scaling down of the army presence in Northern Ireland came as a result of an security assessment which indicated a reduced threat from terrorism.

The security forces believe the IRA statement, in which it set a context for putting weapons and explosives completely beyond use, signalled a reduction in that threat.

But Newry and Armagh Ulster Unionist assembly member Danny Kennedy has warned against moving too quickly to remove security bases.

"We have to remember that all these installations have been, and will continue to be, extremely important," said Mr Kennedy.

"There is the issue of republican splinter groups and careful assessment has to be made."

However, Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Bobby Lavery has welcomed the removal of the posts.

"They weren't there to protect the area.

"They were there for the sole purpose of observing republican activity - no other reason and that's why the populous here would be absolutely delighted to see this removed."

Observation post at Broadway will be removed
The announcement on 9 May also detailed plans to remove Fort George in Londonderry,

It is understood the status of an observation post in the square in Crossmaglen, County Armagh, is to be kept under review.

North Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said the move was "long overdue" and called on the government to make further speedy advances on the demilitarisation process.

The government hopes to take "substantial measures" to normalise security arrangements by June 2001, the new deadline by which both London and Dublin aim to secure full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

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See also:

10 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Mixed reaction to security move
09 May 00 | Northern Ireland
New life in peace process
09 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Army bases to be closed
16 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Further NI troops reduction
26 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
Demonstrations against assembly suspension
14 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Adams: Arms deadline 'unrealistic'
06 May 00 | Northern Ireland
IRA arms offer
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