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British Army ends NI operations


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The British army's longest continuous military operation comes to an end at midnight tonight when responsibility for security in Northern Ireland passes to the police.

Operation Banner lasted 38 years and involved 300,000 personnel, of which 763 were killed by paramilitaries. The last soldier to die was Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, who was shot at a vehicle checkpoint in 1997.


From tomorrow there will still be a garrison of 5,000 troops in Ulster, but they will not be on active operations and will be available for deployment anywhere in the world.


Security will become the responsibility of the Northern Ireland police, and the British soldiers will have a limited role in supporting them.


The armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth said: "August 1 marks the beginning of a new era for the UK armed forces in Northern Ireland when, as with other parts of the country, the military will become very much part of the community."


In a statement to MPs he added: "The impact of the commitment since 1969 has been considerable on both the military themselves and on the MoD civilians supporting them.


"They and the community at large have suffered both death and injury.


"We should take this opportunity to remember the commitment, bravery and sacrifice of all those who have served over so many years in helping deliver the current, more settled and more optimistic circumstances."


Jeffrey Donaldson, the senior Democratic Unionist MP, said political progress in Northern Ireland would not have occurred without the British army.


"We would not have got to the place we are in today with a relative degree of peace had it not been for the contribution of the army in holding the line during what was a very intensive terrorist campaign.


"I believe the army has achieved its objective in Northern Ireland in supporting the police in combating terrorism."


But he warned that the troop presence in Ulster might have to increase in the future, if the peace is broken.


"We must not be complacent. We need to ensure we have the capacity, should the need arise, for the army to step into the breach to protect Northern Ireland. Hopefully, that will not need to happen."


pretty big news no?

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