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Hoax bomb threat against Irish FM raised prospect of Loyalist groups escalating campaign against Northern Ireland Protocol. Paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) 25 March reportedly coerced driver to transport hoax bomb to car park of Houben Centre in capital Belfast, where Irish FM Simon Conveney was attending peacebuilding event; security alert halted Conveney’s speech and evacuated him from location. Loyalists indicated in media reports that incident marked start of renewed campaign against Northern Ireland Protocol – post-Brexit arrangements for UK-EU trade that created regulatory border in Irish Sea. Protesters 25 March rallied in Ballymoney town demanding UK govt overturn protocol. Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie 27 March criticised anti-protocol rallies for “raising tensions” and acknowledged “media reports quoting UVF sources that they intend to escalate their terrorist activities in the coming weeks”.
Violent unrest erupted in capital Belfast and other cities against backdrop of rising unionist anger over controversial Northern Ireland Protocol. Unrest 2-9 April broke out across several cities, reportedly leaving at least 90 police officers injured; violence erupted amid rising discontent within unionist community over Northern Ireland Protocol – provision of UK-EU “Brexit” agreement in effect since 1 Jan 2020 that created regulatory border in Irish Sea – as well as anger over Public Prosecution Service’s late March decision not to prosecute Sinn Fein politicians who attended funeral last summer in violation of COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings. Notably, groups of predominantly youths 2 April assaulted police officers, injuring 12 in Londonderry city; next day highjacked and set alight three vehicles and threw over 30 petrol bombs at police in Newtownabbey town. In capital Belfast, authorities 2 April arrested eight individuals, including 13-year-old boy, after youth groups attacked police officers in historically loyalist area. Group mostly encompassing youths 7 April highjacked and set bus on fire at intersectional area between nationalist and unionist communities; 8 April threw petrol bombs at police officers who deployed water cannons for first time in six years. First Minister Arlene Foster 7 April condemned violence, stating actions “do not represent unionism or loyalism”. Loyalist Communities Council, umbrella group representing paramilitary groups, 9 April said there had been “spectacular collective failure” to understand scale and nature of unionist and loyalist anger and called for new protocol to be negotiated. In letter to UK PM Boris Johnson, four former Northern Ireland secretaries of state voiced concerns over violence and risk that situation could “fall over” unless UK govt took urgent action. Following letter signed by 21 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) representatives 27 April expressing no confidence in Arlene Foster, Foster 28 April announced intention to step down as DUP leader and first minister in May and June, respectively.
Loyalist paramilitary groups temporarily withdrew support for Good Friday Agreement. Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), umbrella group representing paramilitary groups, 3 March temporarily withdrew support for 1998 Good Friday Agreement in protest of Northern Ireland Protocol – provision of UK-EU “Brexit” agreement in effect since 1 Jan 2020 that creates regulatory border in Irish Sea; Chairman of LCC David Campbell warned that EU and UK would be “responsible for the permanent destruction of agreement” if not honoured in its entirety. Campbell 19 March warned that if “core guarantees” were not honoured, this would lead “to significant protest, to the bringing down of the Northern Ireland executive and then into significant political crisis”.
Controversial Northern Ireland Protocol faced criticism amid warnings from Unionist leaders of potential return to violence. Amid growing disquiet surrounding Northern Ireland Protocol – provision of UK-EU “Brexit” agreement in effect since 1 Jan 2020 that creates regulatory border in Irish Sea – former Northern Ireland First Minister and co-architect of 1998 Good Friday Agreement David Trimble 20 Feb warned that “there is real potential for those who have engaged in past violence to take action again into their own hands” if protocol is allowed to stand; Trimble criticised protocol, saying it means “Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK”. First Minister Arlene Foster 25 Feb met with Loyalist Community Council (LCC), organisation representing loyalist paramilitary groups; LCC chairman David Campbell 3 Feb said it may be necessary for loyalists “to fight physically to maintain our freedoms within the UK.” Chief Constable Simon Byrne 4 Feb warned of “increasingly febrile” rhetoric around protocol.
Low-level political tensions continued. Groups of youths and police 8 Aug clashed in west of regional capital Belfast after police attempted to remove inflammatory material used for bonfires that were held in some republican areas to mark anniversary of introduction of internment which led to mass arrests without trial of hundreds of suspected members of Irish Republican Army (IRA) in August 1971. Police mid-Aug launched joint security operation with Republic of Ireland police that led to arrest of ten suspected members of dissident republican group “New IRA”.
Man 16 June hospitalised in west Belfast after sustaining gunshot wound to leg following what police described as paramilitary-style attack.
Police 8 May warned journalists from Sunday Life and Sunday World newspapers that loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Defence Association had planned attacks against them, reportedly over their coverage of paramilitary activity; local politicians who condemned planned attacks against reporters also received threats. Suspected dissident republicans 17 May murdered man in his home in west Belfast. Police 28 May reported hospitalisation of young man following “paramilitary-style” shooting in west Belfast.
National Union of Journalists 8 April condemned threats of violence toward journalist from Irish News by suspected dissident Republicans. Police 19 April launched investigations into two separate paramilitary-style attacks in east Belfast and Coleraine in which two men were hospitalised.
Police 18 March reported hospitalisation of two men following two “paramilitary-style” attacks in Creggan area of Londonderry and town of Ballymena.
Deputy leader of Sinn Féin Michelle O’Neill 11 Jan said she and her party “will not be deterred” following warnings by police that dissident republicans are planning attacks against her and Northern Ireland Assembly member Gerry Kelly.
After collapse in Jan 2017 of power-sharing coalition, led by Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin, all five main parties 11 Jan accepted power-sharing deal to restore institutions of Belfast/Good Friday Agreement including executive, assembly and North/South ministerial council, ending three-year impasse in devolved administration; all five main parties joined coalition ministerial executive. Northern Ireland Assembly 20 Jan passed a motion withholding “consent” for UK govt withdrawal bill from EU.
Suspected dissident republicans 4 Dec carried out grenade attack on police vehicle in west Belfast; no police officer injured in attack. Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin 16 Dec recommenced negotiations to restore devolved powers to Stormont following 12 Dec UK general elections; assembly elections set for 13 Jan 2020 if no power sharing agreement reached.
Annual report by Independent Reports Commission 4 Nov stated UK’s planned departure from EU could lead to rise in paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland; also claimed return of devolved govt powers key to reducing potential violence. Irish PM Varadkar 15 Nov announced talks over restoring devolved power at Stormont would not recommence until after UK general election in Dec.
Amid uncertainty over UK’s planned departure from EU, assistant Northern Ireland police chief 16 Oct warned parliamentary committee that dissident republicans may use Brexit as “clarion call or rallying cry” and target any future “infrastructure”, while head of police 23 Oct warned of loyalist “public disorder” if proposed UK-EU deal threatens union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Attempted attacks on police continued, leading to growing concerns over dissident violence following UK’s planned departure from EU. Mortar bomb found strapped to wall in residential area overlooking police station in Strabane, County Tyrone 7 Sept, with police stating dissident republicans New IRA planned to fire device into police station; media reported incident was seventh attempted murder bid against security forces in Northern Ireland in 2019. Police 9 Sept found IED during security search in Creggan area of Londonderry, blaming device on New IRA; crowd of dozens gathered, some attacking police vehicles with over 40 projectiles, including several petrol bombs; no injuries reported. Head of police 11 Sept asked govt for funding to recruit 800 more officers to deal with “rise” of attacks and “changing types of engineering and capability”.
Security incidents continued. Police night of 17-18 Aug responded to report of suspicious object in road near Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh near border with Republic of Ireland, discovering on investigation that it was fake bomb. As police and bomb disposal officers cleared area 19 Aug, bomb in area detonated causing no injuries. Police accused dissident republicans of hoax to lure police and bomb disposal officers. No group claimed responsibility, but police 22 Aug blamed paramilitary group Continuity Irish Republican Army. Police 25 Aug arrested two in connection with bombing. Shooting at petrol station in Waringstown, County Down 19 Aug left suspected loyalist militant dead; 24 Aug police arrested two and next day charged them with murder. Unidentified assailants 21 Aug shot man in legs in Belfast in what police called paramilitary style attack.
Amid growing concerns over possible escalation of dissident violence following UK’s planned departure from EU, police responding to reports of explosion in Craigavon, County Armagh night of 26-27 July found booby-trapped explosive device made to look like fired mortar near bus stop; police accused dissident republicans of laying device in attempt to kill police officers.
Amid growing concerns over possible escalation of dissident violence following UK’s planned departure from EU, police 1 June reported finding bomb under car belonging to off-duty police officer at a golf club in east Belfast; police defused device without causing casualties or damage; republican dissident group New IRA (Irish Republican Army) 6 June claimed responsibility for the bomb device, pledged to carry out future attacks.
Dissident republicans shot dead journalist during rioting in Londonderry, increasing concerns over escalation of dissident violence amid tensions surrounding UK’s departure from EU and implications for border, and longstanding deadlock over Northern Ireland power-sharing govt. Following police raids searching for weapons and ammunition, dissident republicans 18 April rioted in republican neighbourhood of Creggan, Londonderry, throwing over 50 petrol bombs at police and setting two vehicles on fire; gunman shot at police, killing journalist and LGBT activist Lyra McKee who was observing riots. Police next day blamed “New IRA” group for murder and said they were treating it as terrorist incident. Leaders of six biggest Northern Irish political parties 19 April issued joint statement rejecting murder and attack on “peace and democratic processes”. “New IRA” 22 April admitted it was responsible for murder.
Amid growing concerns over possible security implications of UK’s departure from EU for arrangements on border with Republic of Ireland, police 5 March discovered three small parcel bombs at transport hubs in London and another next day at Glasgow University; police 12 March said republican dissident group New IRA claimed responsibility for sending five packages, with fifth package found in post office in Republic of Ireland 22 March. Police 7 March claimed to have uncovered “significant terrorist hide” containing mortar parts in County Armagh (south).
Several incidents of suspected republican dissident violence reported, amid growing concerns over possible implications of UK’s scheduled 29 March departure from EU for arrangements on border with Republic of Ireland and Good Friday Agreement. Car bomb exploded outside courthouse in Londonderry 19 Jan, following earlier hijacking of vehicle; police arrested five men in connection with bomb, releasing four 21 Jan. Masked men 21 Jan hijacked two more vehicles in separate incidents in Londonderry, raising fears of further bombs. No group claimed responsibility for incidents but police blamed “new IRA” republican dissidents.
Month saw incidents of republican and unionist violence. Republican dissidents 7-12 July reportedly orchestrated violence over six successive nights in republican neighbourhood of Londonderry, firing shots at police 10 July and throwing 75 petrol bombs and two IEDs at police on 12 July. Police 16 July blamed “new IRA” republican dissidents, saying they had arrested thirteen in connection with attacks. Unidentified assailants 13 July threw explosive device at house of former leader of republican party Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, in west Belfast and attacked house of another republican activist and former IRA member; current Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald 16 July blamed dissent republicans for attacks. Loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Volunteer Force 11 July reportedly hijacked and burnt thirteen vehicles in protest at govt limiting size of bonfires for annual 12 July Orange Order parades. Five largest political parties, including Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin, released joint statement 11 July appealing for end to all violence. British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference 25 July met for first time since 2007 in London to discuss issues including paramilitary and dissident violence, support for Good Friday Agreement and British and Irish relations post-Brexit.
Result of 23 June UK referendum voting to leave the EU prompted concerns over potential for destabilisation of status quo in place since 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended decades-long Troubles. Overall vote in Northern Ireland favoured staying part of EU, however loyalist DUP supported Leave vote. Sinn Fein 24 June called for vote on Irish unity, prompting concerns in some quarters for potential to inflame Loyalist tensions. Referendum result also raised uncertainties over future status of open border with Republic of Ireland and fear of return to physical border with checkpoints. Developments come ahead of annual Orange Order parades 12 July.
As loyalist protests and violence continued early month over Belfast city hall flag dispute, police said senior loyalist paramilitaries orchestrating violence. 2 unionist parties set up Unionist Forum to address protests amid concern over economic impact of protests. Fresh clashes between protesters and police late month.
Widespread protests, some violent, following Belfast city council’s 4 Dec decision to fly union flag only on designated days, rather than year-round.
New IRA faction claimed responsibility for 1 Nov killing of off-duty prison officer.
Dissident republicans blamed for 2 bombs exploded in Londonderry 19 Jan; no injuries.
Bomb exploded outside govt office in Londonderry 12 Oct; no injuries. Real IRA suspected.
Escalated tensions between Greek Cypriots and Turkey as controversial drilling for gas by U.S. company began south of Cyprus 19 Sept, despite repeated warnings by Turkey drilling would significantly damage peace process. EU and U.S. support Cyprus’s right to explore in area. Following reunification talks meeting between Greek Cypriot president Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Eroglu, UN envoy Alexander Downer 27 Sept urged both sides to exercise restraint; Eroglu said drilling not discussed at meeting. Turkey responded by hiring Norwegian research vessel to conduct oil and gas research in E Mediterranean. Turkish deputy PM 17 Sept said country would freeze relations with EU if and when Cyprus is given rotating EU presidency in 2012, as set to happen.
5 May NI Assembly elections passed off peacefully; Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein said outcome shows power-sharing arrangement is working. Police 12 May reported bomb attacks in NI doubled over previous year. Several attacks blamed on dissident republicans over month.
Catholic police officer killed by car bomb in Omagh 2 Apr. 3 arrested; group calling itself “the IRA” 22 Apr claimed responsibility for attack, vowed to embark on bombing campaign. Fears of further violence around 5 May elections for Northern Ireland Assembly, mid-May visit by Queen. Several large arms finds, foiled bomb attacks over month.
3 Belfast police injured in grenade attack by suspected IRA dissident 6 Nov. Govt announced Independent Monitoring Commission to close.
UK PM Cameron 6 Oct pledged to fight “increasing” dissident Republican threat. Real IRA car bomb exploded 5 Oct in Londonderry, sixth Republican attack this year. Police 11 Oct found dissident Republican explosives and arms dump in southern border area. 2 members of Real IRA jailed 1 Oct for attempting to import arms and explosives. Rioting 26-27 Oct in Protestant district near Belfast provoked by police searches targeting loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Volunteer Force.
UK domestic intelligence agency 24 Sept announced “strong possibility” of dissident republican attack on mainland, raised threat level to “substantial” due to increasing activity and sophistication of attacks.
Spate of bomb attacks throughout month in attempt by dissident Republicans to derail peace process. No-warning bomb 4 Aug injured 3 children in Lurgan, police called bomb “obvious attempt to kill police”; hours later police investigating 3 other bomb alerts in same area attacked with petrol bombs; 3 men arrested 25 Aug. NI security forces 4 Aug defused car bomb targeting army major in Bangor, first attack directly targeting army since March 2009. 200lb car bomb exploded outside Derry police station 3 Aug, following telephone warning by man claiming to represent Real IRA; suspected Continuity IRA member same day threw bomb at police station in Co Armagh.
Over 80 officers injured as police came under attack during 4 nights of rioting in Belfast 12-15 July; 3 police officers shot 12 July; police deployed water cannons, rubber bullets; several arrests made. Disturbances came during height of marching season, traditional flashpoint for sectarian violence. 6 police officers injured 3 July in rioting by about 100 people in West Belfast. Latest in series of bombs targeting police stations exploded 21 July in West Belfast, no casualties; bomb believed to be targeting police exploded 11 July in County Armagh, no casualties.
Govt’s Saville report into 1972 “Bloody Sunday” killings by UK soldiers of 13 Catholic protesters in Londonderry published 15 June. Inquiry called actions of British paratroopers “unjustified”, said unarmed protestors posed no threat; PM Cameron apologised for killings. Security services 18 June detonated 136kg bomb outside County Tyrone police border post after warning from dissident Republicans.
Major security operation launched 5 May ahead of 6 May UK general election. 7 suspected IRA dissidents arrested 5 May after bomb exploded outside Lurgan police station. Police 6 May destroyed car bomb outside voting centre in Derry. New PM Cameron 20 May stated commitment to peace process and continued devolution. 6 police officers injured by petrol bombs near Lurgan 17 May.
Policing and justice powers 12 Apr devolved to power-sharing govt; David Ford of cross-community Alliance Party appointed justice minister following deal between Sinn Fein and DUP. Explosion on same day outside MI5 Belfast HQ, claimed by Real IRA; none wounded. Bomb defused 13 Apr outside police station in Newtownhamilton, Co. Armagh. Bomb exploded outside same police station 23 Apr; 2 injured. Police confiscated 2 pipe bombs Lurgan 28 Apr; 2 suspected dissidents arrested. Police 30 Apr said stepping up security against dissident republican threat to disrupt 6 May UK election.
Northern Ireland Assembly 9 March approved bill on devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast. Sinn Fein, DUP voted in favour; Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) voted against. Powers to be devolved 12 April. Suspected dissidents 21 March shot at police officers inspecting suspect device on Belfast-Dublin rail line after a series bomb scares disrupted rail service; no injuries.
Sinn Fein, DUP 5 Feb reached deal over devolution of policing and justice powers, preventing collapse of 2007 power-sharing govt. Agreement creates new post of Justice Minister for Northern Ireland, sets 12 April as date for transfer of powers following N Ireland Assembly vote 9 March. 100kg bomb exploded outside Newry courthouse 22 Feb causing no casualties; no claims of responsibility. Irish National Liberation Army, IRA splinter group, 8 Feb announced it had decommissioned its weapons; came 1 day before expiration of Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD). 2 men arrested 16 Feb in connection with March 2009 murder of police officer in Co Armagh released 1 day later.
Sinn Fein, DUP 31 Jan said “considerable progress” made in talks to break deadlock over devolution of policing and justice powers, parades. Followed 25-28 Jan crisis talks in Belfast chaired by UK PM Brown, Irish PM Cowen to prevent collapse of 2007 power-sharing govt after mid month breakdown in DUP-Sinn Fein negotiations. Brown 28 Jan threatened UK, Ireland would impose own solution transferring police and justice powers in May if parties failed to resolve outstanding issues by 29 Jan; deadline passed with parties still locked in talks. 1 police officer injured in dissident republican car bomb attack 8 Jan. Ulster Defence Association (UDA) 6 Jan said it had completed decommissioning its weapons.
ntelligence services early month described threat level from republican dissidents as “severe”. Pipe bombs thrown into 2 cars in Londonderry 6 Dec; 50-strong crowd attacked attendant police with petrol bombs. Police discovered 500kg bomb in lorry in South Armagh late Dec. Deal on devolution of policing and justice powers to Belfast remained elusive, despite ongoing meetings between British, Irish govts.
Independent Monitoring Commission 4 Nov reported dissident republican threat at highest level for almost 6 years; Real IRA and Continuity IRA working more closely together, seeking to launch attacks on mainland Britain. Several incidents over month blamed on dissident republicans: mortar bomb found by police in Armagh 18 Nov; gun attack on police officers in County Fermanagh 21 Nov, several men arrested including reserve soldier in Irish Army; 180kg bomb left outside Policing Board HQ in Belfast 21 Nov; unexploded pipe bomb found 30 Nov near police station in Strabane. Deal on devolution of justice and policing appeared under threat with unionists pressing for maintenance of Ulster’s fulltime reserve police force.
Ongoing disagreement between Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein over timing of transfer of policing and justice responsibility from London to Belfast; UK PM Gordon Brown 21 Oct outlined £1bn package for NI devolution. Visiting Belfast, U.S. Sec State Clinton 13 Oct encouraged parties to reach agreement. IRA dissidents blamed for Belfast car bomb injuring woman. 2 arrested mid-month in case involving 600lb bomb found in van in Co Tyrone. Explosive device thrown into Territorial Army barracks in north Belfast 22 Oct.
Ulster Defense Association 8 Sept pledged to give up arms within 6 months. Army diffused 272kg Europe Report N° 201, Cyprus: Reunification or Partition?, 30 Sept. 2009. Negotiating Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders must join forces and embrace a collaborative, federal reunification of the island in the next few months, or see their efforts overtaken by the unstoppable dynamic of a hostile partition. 10 bomb found close to border with Ireland 8 Sept; dissident republicans suspected. Failed pipe bomb attack on car in Londonderry 21 Sept also blamed on dissident republicans.
Over 20 police injured during mid-month disturbances surrounding loyalist Orange Order parades; Sinn Fein blamed dissident republicans from Real IRA.
Independent Monitoring Committee (IMC) on paramilitary activity released report 7 May warning dissident republican threat high but not able to mount substantial terrorist campaign; peace process challenged by March killings but not unravelling; Provisional IRA remains inactive. One killed, one wounded 24 May by loyalist mob during post-football match violence.
In wake of March shootings of security forces, Real IRA 12 Apr warned of possible attacks in Britain. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness informed of death threat by dissident republicans 23 Apr. 11 Apr arson attack on Sinn Fein offices in Derry blamed on dissident republicans.
Return of violence feared as dissident Republicans mounted attacks on security forces. 7 March Real IRA gun attack on Massereene British army barracks County Antrim killed 2 soldiers, injured 4, including 2 civilians. First killing of British army personnel in NI since 1997, roundly condemned by all parties. Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Officer shot dead 10 March in Continuity IRA gun attack in Craigavon, County Armagh – 1st ever murder of PSNI Officer, 1st police killing since 1998. Attacks came days after PSNI Chief Hugh Orde announced undercover British military intelligence forces being redeployed to NI amid fears of imminent attack, and warning that dissident threat highest since 1998. Thousands protested against killings 11 March in Belfast, Derry, Newry. 11 arrested for attacks, with small- scale violence in Craigavon 14 March during arrests. 17 year old charged 24 March with PSNI Officer murder; another man charged 25 March; 3rd charged with withholding information 26 March. 1 charged 27 March with British soldier murders.
First minister and head of DUP Ian Paisley 4 March announced resignation. 70 protesters attacked police 25 March in Londonderry.
Real IRA claimed responsibility for non-fatal shootings of off-duty police officers in Derry and Dungannon 8, 12 November, latter attack same day Sinn Féin representatives joined district police partnership committee. Group threatened further attacks 27 November in video. 2 suspected IRA dissidents arrested 28 November after 8 November shooting of police officer in Londonderry. UDA renounced violence and said disbanding all armed units and sealing of arsenal 11 November. Rival UVF also said would seal weapons. Independent Monitoring Commission reported 7 November IRA dissident groups responsible for 3 killings in March and May 2007; no mention of possible IRA connection to October killing of truck driver.
Decision by Social Development Minister Ritchie to cut Conflict Transformation Initiative funding to Ulster Defence Association (UDA) on ground that group still involved in violence, condemned by protestant colleague Finance Minister Robinson. Exchange came week after UDA failed to meet 9 October deadline to start weapons decommissioning. 20 October fatal assault on truck driver suspected of cross-border fuel smuggling linked by family to IRA; claim rejected by local Sinn Fein leaders.
Republic of Ireland governing party Fianna Fail announced considering NI presence; Social Democratic and Labour Party welcomed move amid speculation of possible merger. Tensions between Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and breakaway faction in south Antrim saw suspected UDA bomb attack on house in Carrickfergus and retaliatory shootings 22, 24 September. Independent Monitoring Commission confirmed British troops cut to peacetime levels.
Ulster Defence Association (UDA) told to begin decommissioning weapons within 60 days or lose community project funding following UDA- organised attacks on police in Bangor 1 August.
British army ended 38-year NI operation 31 July; 5,000 troops will remain but police to hold sole responsibility for security. First Minister Paisley and Democratic Unionist Party ministers attended North-South Ministerial Council 17 July, meeting with Republic of Ireland counterparts for first time since body set up under 1998 Good Friday Agreement. British-Irish Council summit held 16 July.
Prosecutors said insufficient evidence to charge former police officers over 1998 murder of lawyer Pat Finucane, despite proof of police collusion. Government warned Ulster Defence Association would lose £500k state funding unless began disarming. Shaun Woodward appointed new Sec. State for NI. British army withdrew from Bessbrook base in NI drawdown.