In Northern Ireland, British troops have been preparing for what is already reported as being an unquiet Christmas.
In Northern Ireland, British troops have been preparing for what is already reported as being an unquiet Christmas. Soldiers in the Bogside area of Londonderry have today (Wednesday) been searching for arms in cars and in nearby fields, whole in Belfast security is kept at a maximum from military vantage points throughout the city. On the other hand, troops have also been trying to ease the tension by dressing as Father Christmas and distributing gift to local children in County Antrim, and at a Military Police Party in Londonderry.
The extensive searches began after a patrol had found a cache of three grenades, one pistol and 100 detonators. Although nothing further was discovered today, the searches do little to increase the popularity of the British troops. So they have been doing their own public relations work for the holiday season. In County Antrim - no reindeer, but a helicopter from the Army headquarters at Lisburn, carried Santa Claus to a nearby village school where he distributed gifts.
Most of the Army units stationed in Ulster have been involved in similar seasonal activities - such as the Bogside party give by the Non-Commissioned Officers of the Military Police who, separated from their own families for Christmas, adopted children from some of the largest and poorest families in the neighbourhood for one huge party, paid for out of the Unit's own funds.
But all the parties and goodwill could not completely cover up the fact that the troops still had a serious and unpopular job in keeping the peace. In Belfast, the search for arms was being carried out with mine detectors, and guard posts continued to be manned from the city's roof-tops.