Belfast Telegraph

Troop levels in Northern Ireland remain unchanged following review

By Allan Preston

The Ministry of Defence has promised not to reduce the number of troops garrisoned in Northern Ireland for five years, with the possibility of adding three new platoons to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.

The announcement was part of Army 2020, which was included in the Strategic Defence and Security 2015 Review.

Regular armed forces levels will remain at 5,000, with the possibility of increasing reserve forces.

A change of the guard at Palace Barracks in Holywood was also announced.

1 Scots will move out and the Royal Anglian Regiment will replace them during 2019.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, a former soldier, welcomed the news.

"Having made this commitment, it does not mean there will be no changes to the laydown of the armed forces in Northern Ireland," he said.

"We already know that a number of bases in Northern Ireland will be closed, including Kinnegar Reserve Logistic Base near Holywood and Abercorn Barracks in Ballykinler.

"Alongside this The 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots), presently based in Palace Barracks, will rerole to become a specialist infantry battalion.

"Its numbers will be reduced from 560 to 270 soldiers in 2017 before they move to Aldershot in England.

"They will be replaced by a full infantry battalion from The Royal Anglian Regiment in 2019."

Mr Beattie also welcomed the expansion of the locally based reserves.

"There will be no change to The Irish Guards or the Royal Irish Regiment, the latter presently deployed in Afghanistan," he said.

"To recognise the success of 2nd Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, whose headquarters is in Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn, it is now allowed to recruit an additional three platoons to its present laydown.

"The Army 2020 is good news for Northern Ireland and maintains the strong traditions of young men and women from Northern Ireland serving in the British Army."

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon made the announcements on Thursday as part of the Government's ongoing restructuring process to modernise the British Army.

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