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Army base savings ‘should be used to fight dissidents’

Around £114m saved because of the reduced Army presence in Northern Ireland should be ploughed back into tackling the dissident threat, it was urged last night.

Closure of the Army barracks where two soldiers were shot dead will save further money, the MoD added after its annual report revealed multi-million pound gains from the end of operations in the province.

Massereene base in Antrim shuts its doors in 2010 and the RAF is to withdraw from Aldergrove.

Fermanagh UUP Assembly member Tom Elliott said the danger from the Real IRA remained.

“If they do something fairly proactive that could wipe out that threat. I am saying there needs to be a covert Army presence to curtail that threat.”

The decision to call in such support rests with PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde. He has said his force is up to the job but there has been a recent upsurge in violence.

On July 13 dozens of officers were injured and a live round fired during disturbances in Ardoyne, north Belfast, following a parade.

In March two soldiers, Patrick Azimkar (21) and Mark Quinsey (23), were shot dead while taking a pizza delivery at Masserene, Co Antrim, and police constable Stephen Carroll (48) was gunned down two days later in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

Operation Banner, the Army's security presence in Northern Ireland, ended in July 2007.

Fewer than 5,000 soldiers are stationed here.

Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the money should be reinvested in more helicopters for the Army.

Belfast Telegraph

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