The army's 38 year military campaign in Northern Ireland ended at midnight.
It is now down to the Police Service of Northern Ireland to police the province and take on the small groups of dissident republicans still seeking to destabilise it.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said his force was up to the job and no longer needed the support of the army such was the sea-change in the political and security situation.

First Minister, the Rev Ian Paisley said the province owed a great debt to the army - the peaceful situation in Northern Ireland had only come about as a result of their sacrifice, he said.

Operation Banner - the army's support role for the police - was the longest in British military history and involved some 300,000 military personnel.

When the first troops arrived it was believed they would be gone in weeks - nearly four decades later their job is finally done.

At the height of the Troubles there were about 27,000 troops on the streets of Northern Ireland. In all 763 military personnel were killed - the last 10 years ago - and thousands more injured.

From now on there will be a maximum of 5,000 garrisoned in the province , significantly not to operate there but to prepare for duties in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

There has been no sudden last minute departure, troops have been gradually withdrawn and numbers were below the 5,000 ceiling in good time for the ending of the military operation.

Mr Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said Operation Banner had put the province in great debt to the soldiers involved.

Source: Daily Express, Aug. 1, 2007

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