The number of Irish citizens joining the British Army halved in 2012, according to new figures issued by the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

The Irish Independent reports that just 70 Irish people joined the British Army after dissident Republicans targeted potential recruits.

The report adds that the fall is also partly due to a drop in the number of combat operations undertaken by the British Army.

The latest Ministry of Defence figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that just 70 Irish citizens joined the British Army in 2012. This figure contrasts with the 123 Irish citizens who joined the British armed forces in 2011, a 44 per cent drop in 12 months.

It’s the first time since 2007 that recruitment in the Republic of Ireland by the British Army has dropped.

The report adds that the decline is a surprise given that over the past decade recruitment in Ireland had reached its highest level since World War II.

Military analysts told the paper there are a number of factors behind the decline, including the end of British combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

British armed forces have downsized recently while the improving economic situation in Ireland has also hit recruitment.

The targeting of Irish recruits to the British Army by dissident republicans is also seen as a factor in the decline.

Last Christmas police in Limerick foiled an attempted attack by dissident Republicans on a British soldier home on vacation.

A year ago, the Continuity IRA directly threatened all Irish citizens serving with Britain’s armed forces.