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Northern Ireland

The SAS have been active in Northern Ireland since 1968 (publicly from 1976), mainly in a plainclothes, intelligence-gathering role.

On 7 January 1976 Prime Minister Harold Wilson publicly committed the regiment to patrol South Armagh, the district having recently been described by Home Secretary Merlyn Rees as 'bandit country'. In 1969 and 1974 first D Squadron and then B Squadron had been tentatively introduced into the Province, but now the Prime Minister was making it clear that the SAS were in business.

From the late 1970s the SAS deployment in Ulster was one troop at Bessbrook under the command of 3 Brigade, one troop in the Belfast area under 39 Brigade, one under 8 Brigade in Londonderry and a fourth under the personal control of the Commander of Land Forces.

In the 1980s this was changed. To make the SAS presence more effective in Northern Ireland, a new organization was established. Called the Intelligence and Security Group (Northern Ireland) -- or the Group -- it reduced the total number of SAS soldiers from a full squadron to a troop of just over twenty men called Ulster Troop.

The Regiment's counter-terrorism role began in the 1950s but they did not obtain financing to expand this role until the 1970s. Their reputation is high enough that in some cases potential terrorists have given up when they have been falsely persuaded that the SAS is coming.

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