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Last British Troops Leave N.Ireland

September 13, 1998

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Eight soldiers on Saturday carried out the last British foot patrol in Belfast _ a sign of easing tensions following the recent peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

Police chief Ronnie Flanagan ordered the return of troops to barracks in the city in response to the reduced threat from armed extremists favoring or opposing British rule.

Army spokesman Maj. David Howcroft said the army will continue with routine patrols in other parts of the province, though they will be reduced in number.

``In terms of routine day-to-day patrols in Belfast, that’s the last one,″ Howcroft said.

A peace agreement signed in April calls for a power-sharing arrangement between Protestants and Catholics.

As the soldiers finished their patrol, taxi drivers honked their horns and there was mocking laughter and jeering from Catholic residents opposed to the army’s presence.

Since the British army arrived on the streets of Belfast in August 1969 during widespread civil unrest, 508 soldiers have been killed.

There are approximately 16,000 British troops in Northern Ireland supporting the 13,000-member police force.

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