Ulster troops wind-down in prospect

TROOPS could be taken off the streets of Belfast as a response by the Government to ceasefires by the IRA and loyalist paramilitary groups, Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, told MPs last night.

Mr Rifkind emphasised the need for caution, but gave a strong hint that steps to make military patrols look less aggressive, including replacing helmets with regimental head-dress, would be followed by a lowering of troop presence on the streets. 'Our aim is to remove soldiers from the streets of Northern Ireland, but when it is safe to do so, and not a moment sooner,' Mr Rifkind said. It will not mean a reduction in the number of troops in Northern Ireland but it could go some way to meeting the demands of Sinn Fein for the demilitarisation of the province in return for the IRA ceasefire.

Downing Street confirmed that controversial parts of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, including exclusion orders, introduced in the wake of the Birmingham pub bombings, could be repealed early next year after the Act's annual review.

Dick Spring, the Irish foreign minister, yesterday proposed ending Irish emergency anti-terrorist powers, putting pressure on the British government to match his response. He will argue at a meeting of the Irish cabinet today for the dropping of the powers, first adopted in 1939 and updated in 1976, if peace in Northern Ireland is deemed secure.

But his proposals were challenged as 'premature' by Des O'Malley, a former justice minister, who used the powers to set up the non-jury, anti-terrorist Special Criminal Court in 1972.

Mr O'Malley said it was far from certain that the risk of intimidation of juries and the threat of gang warfare had disappeared. 'It (the Special Criminal Court) was brought in because juries were interfered with and intimidated and I don't see any reason that the same thing wouldn't happen today.'

Meanwhile, the Cabinet's Northern Ireland committee is expected to take the first step towards bringing Sinn Fein into the talks process on Thursday by taking 'the working assumption' that the ceasefire is permanent.

Ministers are preparing to lift the exclusion order on Gerry Adams banning the Sinn Fein president from the mainland, but that may be delayed as a 'carrot' to offer Sinn Fein when they enter the talks with government officials. The Prime Minister has defended his cautious response to the ceasefires, but the Government is keen to avoid the criticism that it is dragging its heels.

However, difficulties ahead were underlined by Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, who attacked James Molyneaux, the Ulster Unionist leader, for 'crawling to Dublin' shortly before Mr Molyneaux met Mr Major.

Mr Paisley's attack was provoked by Mr Molyneaux's readiness to accept Sinn Fein into talks at official level before Christmas as a result of the ceasefire. Mr Paisley also attacked the 'counterfeit peace process' and denounced Mr Major as 'untrustworthy'. The Prime Minister met Mr Molyneaux last night at Downing Street to discuss the Government's next steps towards bringing Sinn Fein and loyalist groups into the talks process.

The publication of the framework document by the Dublin and London governments at the end of the month is likely to inject some realism into the hopes for lasting peace. It will be a broad package, including cross-border bodies, an elected power-sharing assembly for Ulster, and constitutional changes in Ireland and Britain over the future of the province.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Web developer (C#, MVC4, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Jquery)

£30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Senior Automation QA Engineer (Java, Selenium WebDriver, Agile)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...

Web developer (C#.NET, ASP.NET, MVC3/4, HTML5, CSS3, JAVASCRIPT

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment