NI is today like ‘normal garrison’, says MoD

There are more reserve troops in Northern Ireland than regular ones, with numbers of the latter declining over the last 10 years
There are more reserve troops in Northern Ireland than regular ones, with numbers of the latter declining over the last 10 years

Official figures reveal just how steeply the number of troops in the Province has declined in recent years.

The MoD’s statistics department gives a tally of how many members of the military are based in the UK and internationally, and its most recent batch of data – covering July 2014 – shows that Northern Ireland had 1,830 regular personnel stationed in it.

This is lower than Wales (2,560), far below Scotland (10,390), and also lower than all English regions except the north-east.

In June 2004, regular personnel in the Province had numbered 7,690 – meaning there has been cut of 5,860 compared to a decade ago.

The News Letter reveals the figures amid calls by the DUP for a bomb disposal base to be set up in north-west Northern Ireland,

Operation Banner, the long-running security campaign covering the Troubles era, ended in July 2007.

That same month, the MoD recorded 4,480 personnel in the Province.

Then the same time the following year, after Banner had formally drawn to a close, the number stood at 2,950.

Ken Johnston, chief press officer for the MoD in the Province, said that the bulk of the 1,800-or-so regular troops now in Northern Ireland are part of 38 Irish Brigade, headquartered at Thiepval.

The brigade offers training for overseas deployments.

Their numbers can fluctuate throughout the year.

In addition, he said there are around 2,000 reservists.

A political agreement was put in place that, after Operation Banner, there would be no more than 5,000 troops stationed in the Province.

Asked about the idea of increasing troop levels in Northern Ireland, Mr Johnston said: “We’re a normal garrison... We certainly provide specialist support to the police when they want it. Really the questions have to be asked not of the Army. [It is a case of] what do police require?”

Yesterday, the DUP’s East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said that in just five months last year, the Army was called to deal with more than 160 bomb alerts in Northern Ireland – many of them in the north-west.

He said in a statement: “Consideration should be given to having a secure base for an Army bomb disposal unit in the North West to respond speedily to potential bomb attacks.”