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16 March 2006 Edition

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Pay off: Sectarian militia members receive golden handshake

BY FERN LANE

RIR blood money

The British government announced last week that 3,000 serving members of the Royal Irish Regiment are to be rewarded with golden handshakes of £28,000 (€40,600) to each full time soldier - on top of their redundancy package and army pensions - and £14,000 (€20,300) for the part-timers.

But no amount of money or medals, can disguise the UDR/RIR's institutional criminality, enabled and encouraged by the British government and political Unionism.

The RIR/UDRleaves a blood stained legacy in the Six Counties and in welcoming representatives of the regiment to Downing Street this week, British prime minister Tony Blair has added insult to the many and grievous injuries which the nationalist community has suffered at the regiment's hands.

The final disbandment of the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) is long overdue. From its inception as the Ulster Defence Regiment in 1970, this locally-recruited unionist militia has been synonymous with murder, collusion and brutality.

So comprehensive has been the involvement of the regiment's personnel with - and membership of - loyalist murder gangs that, in nationalist areas of the six counties, UDR and UDA have become virtually interchangeable terms. One of its former commanding officers, Brigadier David Millar, is on record as admitting there would have been no regiment left had all soldiers also belonging to the UDA or UVF been thrown out.

Within ten years of its formation, 200 UDR members had been convicted of offences directly linked to loyalism's sectarian campaign against nationalists. In total, more than 300 UDR/RIR soldiers have been convicted of offences directly connected with loyalist activities.

The UDR was unique within the British army, not only in its composition, but also because it never toured away from its home base and it was known by Unionists as The Home Service. When, in the 1990s, it became the Royal Irish Regiment it did undertake overseas tours, most recently and notoriously in Iraq where it was once more at the centre of allegations of torture and mistreatment of civilians.

In the 1980's the UDR's collusion with the UDA and UVF reached its nadir, and the regiment was implicated in the deaths of dozens, and probably hundreds, of nationalists. In the web of collusion created by Brian Nelson and other British Agents, during the course of which details of around 2,000 Catholics were passed to unionist paramilitaries, most of the information emanated from the UDR.

Despite this, the regiment was allowed to continue, albeit under a different name. And despite this shameful history, the RIR are now to be paid off to the tune of £250 million (€364 million). As recently as 2004, 28 RIR members were found to be involved in the disappearance of intelligence files on hundreds of Catholics from Castlereagh barracks and removed from duty. As he mollifies the regiment's commanding officers and their Unionist champions with the presenting, in addition to a fat cheque, of some Swiftian ribboned trinket or other (the George Cross shut the RUC up), perhaps the Prime Minister should be reminded of just a small selection of the thousands of crimes UDR has committed.

  • The weapon used in the 1989 killing of Pat Finucane came from the UDR.
  • UDR members implicated in murders carried out by Shankill Butchers.
  • In 1997 UDR members convicted of raiding armoury of their Coleraine base and of storing weapons for Paisley's Third Force.
  • In 1976 UDR members convicted in connection with the murders of members of the Miami Showband.
  • Weapon used in the Miami Showband killings came from a raid on the Lurgan UDR barracks and was also used in the murder of John Green.
  • In 1999 former UDR member David Jordan admitted being part of a patrol which murdered Tyrone Councillor Paddy Kelly in 1974. Jordan also implicated DUP member Oliver Gibson in the killing.
  • A gang consisting of members of the UDR, RUC and loyalist paramilitaries are believed responsible for dozens of murders, bombings and attacks on Catholics in and around South Armagh. These include the bombing of Donnelly's Bar in Silverbridge in 1975 which killed three men, and the murders of James and Gertrude Devlin. The same gang, said UDR corporal Robert McConnell, is also believed to have been responsible the murders of three members of the Reavey family in 1976 and three members of the O'Dowd family at the same time.
  • UDR members have been convicted in connection with, or are known to have colluded in, amongst others, the murders of: Paul Kelly (1985), Colm McCartney and John Farmer (1975), Adrian Carroll (1983), Loughlin Maginn (1989).
  • Aside from loyalist activities in the regiment, several hundred UDR/RIR men have been forced to resign or have been discharged for assault, sexual assault and rape, illegal drug use and theft; one of the worst records in the British army.
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