Northern Ireland's General Officer Commanding, Lieut-General Sir Ian Freeland, said today (Monday) that failure of the politicians to find a solution could end the "honeymoon period" and likely engulf the soldiers in the fighting.
FREEMAN AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE. (SOF)
TRANSCRIPT: QUESTIONER: "Do you think this period will continue much longer: this honeymoon period?"
FREELAND: "The honeymoon period cannot, I do not think, continue for ever obviously. We're perhaps at the peak now with everybody smiling and swapping cups of tea and all this sort of business and cracking jokes...but unless there is a solution or some hope for the future...and this is where the politicians have got to come in, the soldiers are not going to be welcome on the streets for ever and ever."
QUESTIONER: "Therefore you are already at the point when you hope you can pull them out soon?"
FREELAND: "I'm hoping very much first of all pulling out of the guard; perhaps doing the same job by perhaps patrolling instead of physically standing behind wire barriers. Er, so as to retain the confidence and make everybody, regardless of who they are, feel that the security forces are about still."
QUESTIONER: "General is there any likelihood of patrols being placed on the border at the moment?"
FREELAND: "Not at the moment though, of course we have to, you know, watch out for that sort of thing but at the moment it's apparently done by police, that. Done now."
QUESTIONER: "Do your intelligence reports indicate there is going to be a stepping up of IRA activity because of the raid police station at Crossmaglen?"
FREELAND: "Well, that is an indication isn't it that they might be now start coming in and are prepared to take offensive action. You see up to now the IRA has always been an underground threat. We know they're about the place and they can come up. But this is the first actual physical attack that has been identifiable as IRA and therefore we ought to be alert and we are."
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Background: Northern Ireland's General Officer Commanding, Lieut-General Sir Ian Freeland, said today (Monday) that failure of the politicians to find a solution could end the "honeymoon period" and likely engulf the soldiers in the fighting. He said this is an interview with television, Press and radio reporters. General Freeland also said they were on the alert for IRA activity.
General Freeman said there were now almost 4,000 soldiers on guard in the troubled areas of Belfast and Londonderry and by Thursday fresh reinforcements should have arrived.
The general said the British troops had been ordered not to use their guns except in extreme circumstances. This meant they could fire back only if fired upon.
He said his troops were ready to deal with any build up of the IRA, the underground Irish Republican Army. It is dedicated to ending the partition of Ireland, by violence if necessary.