Troops' return reckless, says MP
By Mark Simpson Political Correspondent
THE decision to send more troops into Northern Ireland has been branded
THE decision to send more troops into Northern Ireland has been branded "provocative" by SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon.
Unionist politicians have been more positive about the return of 500 Royal Irish Regiment soldiers but Mr Mallon believes it is a poorly- timed, and insensitive move.
The SDLP MP said: "Very obviously the places where this regiment will be deployed are the border areas.
"To do so at the present time could provoke a reaction and there are those within the community who are simply sitting there, waiting for an excuse to become involved in action against the Army or the police, and this could be the type of provocative announcement that could give them that excuse."
Dublin opposition leader Bertie Ahern described the decision to increase the troop levels "regrettable".
John Taylor, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionists, believes the arrival of more troops should be handled sensitively.
He said: "The government are correct in taking precautions but I have to say I am disappointed that after a steady reduction in the troops' presence in Northern Ireland in the past 18 months that the trend is now reversed and that troops are once again appearing on the streets.
"At the moment there has been no knee-jerk reaction in Northern Ireland.
Very little has changed since last Friday.
"I hope that continues to be the situation and that the troops are there but held back in reserve rather than saturating the countryside."
DUP justice spokesman Ian Paisley Jnr claimed the influx of more soldiers signalled a vindication of his party's position.
"We said from the very beginning that the troops must be kept in until there is a real and just peace," he said.
"The fact that the IRA has switched off peace means it is only right and proper that the troops are brought back in."
Labour's Northern Ireland spokesperson Mo Mowlam, in Dublin yesterday for talks with Prime Minister John Bruton, said she hoped the extra troops were "of a temporary and precautionary nature".
'Former Northern Ireland Minister Peter Bottomley said: "This is to be expected. Sinn Fein/IRA know that the number of troops is appropriate to the threats."