It is understood there are no plans for any of the three Para battalions to return to Northern Ireland in the near future. However, Army sources insisted that the battalion will be replaced by another 550-strong non- parachute battalion and that the Paras could return if necessary.
"The Parachute Regiment has completed its two-year tour of duty and it is time for them to leave," said an Army spokesman. "There is nothing sinister in this."
Sinn Fein welcomed the withdrawal of "this notorious regiment" but said the number of troops in the province would not actually fall. Nor would it bring Belfast any closer to a permanent peace.
Nationalists have loathed the Parachute Regiment since 1972 when its soldiers were involved in the shooting of 13 civilians in Londonderry on what became known as Bloody Sunday.
More recently, the early release of Lee Clegg from a life sentence for the murder of a teenage joyrider at a Belfast checkpoint while he was serving with the Parachute Regiment caused outrage.Reuse content