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30 September 2004 Edition

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The 5th Column

Flying the flag for the 'New UDR'

THE Royal Irish Regiment — including, remember, entire units, NCOs and officers of the disgraced and despised and officially disbanded Ulster Defence Regiment — was awarded the freedom of North Down with full civic honours by the local council at the weekend.

More than 400 soldiers of the 'New UDR' wore their ceremonial dress (that's RIR uniforms, not their UDA or UVF gear) and marched through the streets of Bangor on Saturday to mark their official honour.

The Mayor of North Down, Valerie Kinghan, trilled:

"In 1990, the council conferred the freedom of the borough on the Ulster Defence Regiment as a token of our appreciation and thanks for their service and sacrifice in our community. Fourteen years on, we now honour the Royal Irish Regiment."

Irish News columnist Brian Feeney wrote of the RIR last year:

"The RIR is the lineal descendant of the B-Specials via the UDR. The UDR was the last native regiment of foot raised in the British Army, a ridiculous, offensive, dangerous, divisive anachronism essentially no different from the King's African Rifles used in Kenya against the Mau Mau or a hundred other contingents raised to avoid what [Britain's Army Minister] Alan Clark called 'infantry overstretch'. Quite simply and cynically, wherever they were, the British armed one section of the local population to police another. It saved British soldiers' lives."

But North Down Borough Council doesn't care about the RIR's sectarian and UDA/UVF/Ulster Resistance baggage. The council's website trumpets: "Led by the band of the Royal Irish Regiment and the colours of the 2nd Battalion, the soldiers participated in the ceremony that dates back hundreds of years."

Only the council doesn't say if those colours included the Orange Order flag which more than 70 armed RIR soldiers so proudly posed with in their British Army barracks in support of the anti-nationalist 'Siege of Drumcree' four years ago.

Tractor attraction

WHILE Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin's merry ploughboys (and girls) were tilling and toiling at the National Ploughing Championships this week, an unseemly tug of war has going on behind the scenes in the fraught sports fields of tractor pulling.

Six-County fans in the Irish Tractor Pullers' Organisation (ITPO) claim that they have been banned by their counterparts in the 26-County Irish Truck and Tractor Pulling Association (ITTPA) from giving demonstrations south of the Border.

The Southern-based tractor boys say their hands are tied because their governing body, the European Tractor Pulling Committee, insists on there being two organisations in the two jurisdictions despite the EU-backed drive towards all-Ireland goals.

The IPTO (which has members on both sides of the Border) has taken its case to Europe to try and have the ban lifted.

Sinn Féin MLA Francie Molloy has thrown his political weight behind the IPTO's drive towards all-Ireland tractor pulling power.

"Tractor pulling," the Fermanagh/South Tyrone tractor trailer says, "is the Grand Prix of the farming world."

Move over, Eddie Irvine.

Derry website IS for WIMPS

A NEW WEBSITE created by young people in the Six Counties to explore issues around citizenship is to be launched in Derry.

The website will go online at 'Talking Citizenship: Creating Discourse' on 11 October.

The project is known by the acronym WIMPS - Where Is My Representative?

Fianna Fáil's failed Euro candidate, Royston Brady, is not expected as a surprise guest.

Space invaders

THE SIX COUNTIES are on a "possible terrorist hit-list... as a possible 'backdoor' target for an Al-Qaida attack on Britain", according to a Sunday Life piece this month headlined 'Al-Qaida targets Ulster'.

Reporter John Hunter raised the Al-Qaida spectre when he wrote on 19 September about an MI5-backed "major international security exercise to be launched next spring" (presumably, MI5 thinks Al-Qaida is on holiday until next spring or doesn't read the Sunday Life so there's no need to rush things).

The operation is said to be codenamed 'Atlantic Blue' and will involve British, American and Irish security services. A special MI5 group has been revealed as advising on security precautions against an Al-Qaida attack on Belfast's airports, Stormont and high-rise buildings in Belfast.

But if the Hunter story has any foundation in fact, there was one curious reference that merits further investigation.

"It is also understood that, with the discreet agreement of the Dublin Government, the RAF has been taking part in regular 'familiarisation' exercises in Southern Irish airspace.

"A UK security source suggests that, should a civilian airliner be hijacked in the Republic for use as a September 11 bomb, the RAF would be called in to shoot it down."

Given this week's emergency landing at Shannon by a Greek airliner en route to New York following a bomb threat, perhaps Dublin's new Defence Minister might like to comment.

Stick it to 'em

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S worthy but dreary US Presidential campaign has been lightened by political bumper stickers that might catch the imagination quicker than some of its initiatives to date.

One anti-Bush sticker urges voters: "Stop mad cowboy disease." Another reads: "November 2nd 2004... the end of an error."

And then there's: "John Kerry... bringing complete sentences back to the White House."

Not so foxy lady

TOPLESS WOMEN dived into the sea outside the British Labour Party's conference in Brighton this week to grab the headlines for the Countryside Alliance's campaign against a ban on fox hunting.

The Countryside Alliance claims that fox hunting is crucial to pest control and not just animal cruelty dressed up as sport for wealthy toffs with a bloodlust. The Countryside Alliance's mouthpiece in southwest England, Alison Hawes, defended this week's targeting of anti-hunt Labour MPs' family homes by Countryside Alliance mobs.

"If we can't hunt foxes, we have got to hunt something."

So much for it being about pest control then.


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