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'Steps Along the Road to Normality', Northern Ireland Office (28 November 1997)
Text: Northern Ireland Office (NIO) ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh
STEPS ALONG THE ROAD TO NORMALITY
SECRETARY OF STATE DETAILS THE SECURITY RESPONSE
Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Press Release
28 November 1997
The Secretary of State the Rt Hon Dr Marjorie Mowlam MP, speaking in Neath, Wales, tonight [28 November 1997] gave details of the main initiatives introduced since the IRA ceasefire of 20 July  to reduce the impact of security measures. Dr Mowlam said:
"Since 20 July , the Chief Constable and the General Officer commanding have been able, on the basis of their continuing assessment of the threat, to take a considerable number of incremental steps to reduce the impact of security measures on everyday life in Northern Ireland.
Last Tuesday [25 November 1997], for example, the Chief Constable was able to announce the ending of all military foot patrols in support of the RUC during daylight hours in West Belfast.
These measures, which respond to the diminution in the threat as the ceasefires have continued, have been widely welcomed. They have helped to restore a more normal atmosphere throughout Northern Ireland and to build a greater degree of confidence in the peace process.
There are still some in the community who argue that there has been little or no reduction in security force activity over the past four months.
I believe that it is worth releasing details which show that the very opposite is the case. A wide range of real and positive steps have been taken, building on the measures introduced during the previous ceasefire which were not reversed.
The position is kept under constant review and further initiatives will be taken as soon as the Chief Constable considers it safe to do so.
Others in the community say that too much has happened too quickly. They point to the fact that a number of groups which directly threaten the public have not yet called a ceasefire, and that paramilitary organisations on both sides still have access to weapons and explosives.
To those who have anxieties on this score, I want to make absolutely clear that the judgement on what should be done is made by the Chief Constable on the basis of the best information available to him. He acts prudently and objectively, with the safety of the public and the security forces as the paramount consideration. Political considerations do not drive this agenda.
Like the overwhelming majority of people, I hope to see the day when we are able to.remove all the security measures that it was previously necessary to have in place.
We have not reached that stage yet. To achieve it will require the continuing reduction and elimination of the terrorist threat. We can all play a part in creating the conditions where that becomes possible. I urge everyone to work positively towards that goal."
NOTES TO EDITORS
The detailed list of changes to the security profile is attached.
Changes introduced during previous cease-fire not reversed
- The opening of 104 border roads previously closed;
- Closure and demolition of Army bases at North Howard Street, Kilturk, Clady, Buncrana Road and St Angelo;
- Disbandment of Belfast Civilian Search Unit;
- Removal of vast majority of vehicle control zones;
- Removal of Army sangars at Chapel St/Church St Cookstown;
- Re-opening of Londonderry city walls to the public;
- Road furniture and ramps removed from Ballygomartin Road, RUC Donegall Pass, RUC Oldpark, Hump PVCP and all Fermanagh patrol bases.
Changes introduced during this ceasefir@e,
-Wearing of body armour no longer mandatory;
-Carrying of long arms restricted;
-Increased use of liveried vehicles;
-Military support withdrawn from south and east Belfast, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey;
-Military support for RUC in Belfast city centre withdrawn;
-Saxon armoured vehicles withdrawn from use;
-Security gates in Belfast opened;
-Single vehicle police patrolling resumes in North Region;
- Military escort vehicles withdrawn in North region;
- Reduction in military patrolling in both urban and rural areas,
- Additional neighbourhood police patrols;
-Security around Ardmore RUC station reduced;
-Checking at PVCPs in Bessbrook relaxed;
-Fewer military personnel required to support RUC in South Region;
-Single vehicle patrols introduced in South Region;
-Town centre barriers opened in Armagh, Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge and Newtownards.
-Military vehicle support for foot patrols withdrawn - Lower Fails;
-Military foot patrols reduced in number - Lower Fails;
-Reduction in military foot patrolling north and west Belfast during darkness;
-Number of foot patrols over 24 hour period in west Belfast reduced;
-Military escorts for RUC mobiles reduced to single vehicle in West Belfast;
-Barriers at High St and Convent Hill Bessbrook opened 12 hours per day;
-Helicopter activity at Bessbrook reduced;
-Military support for RUC foot patrols in Newry town centre withdrawn;
- Army exchange wearing of helmets for berets.
- Military patrols from New Barnsley and Springfield Road reduced;
- Police only foot patrols introduced into Woodbourne subdivision;
- No night time military foot patrols from Springfield Road;
- Army announce intention to close Kilkeel base;
- Military support for RUC in Londonderry city centre withdrawn.
-Bishop's Gate Londonderry re-opened to one way traffic.
- 250 Soldiers of Parachute Regiment re-located to mainland;
-No military support provided to daylight police foot patrols in West Belfast;
- Permanent barriers at Strand Road RUC station removed.
The net effects of these changes are:
- Fewer soldiers in the Province;
- Military support to routine RUC patrols across Northern Ireland reduced by about a
- Less intrusive security furniture;
- Greater freedom of movement for traffic throughout Northern Ireland.