British Army presence scaled back in North
The military presence in Northern Ireland is being downgraded in the New Year, it was announced today.
The British Army's General Officer Commanding is leaving and a Brigadier will be put in charge.
It will be the first time since the foundation of the State in 1921 that there has been no GOC, but the move is a clear reflection of the changed times in Northern Ireland.
Major General Chris Brown packs his bags on January 1 and heads off to Iraq to take up a new command in Baghdad.
``It is the end of an era, we have had a GOC in Northern Ireland since partition, but I am now superfluous and it is time to go,'' he said.
Since the Army's duties in Northern Ireland - Operation Banner - ended in 2007 it had always been envisaged the top job would be downgraded.
Where once there were up to 30,000 soldiers on duty, there is now a peacetime garrison of just under 5,000 scattered around bases across the province.
``We have gone through a transitional phase, but there was always going to come a point when we needed to recognise a two star general in command is no longer appropriate and in my judgment that is now,'' Gen Brown said.