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12 October 2006 Edition

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The Fifth Column

SDLP salutes the UDR

The British Army's military pageant to mark the disbandment of the local death squads - sorry, "Home Battalions" - of the old UDR in the guise of the Royal Irish Regiment took place in Belfast last week. And while the British queen was awarding the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross to the unionist militia, also conspicuous at the celebration of old UDR soldiers was SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell MP.

The South Belfast MP even got to meet Queenie and her son, the Duke of York, colonel-in-chief of the RIR/UDR. No doubt Aly tugged his already well-tugged forelock once again when he chatted inanely to the supreme commander of the British Army. Though how the SDLP big-wig reconciles his bowing and scraping to the British royal family - the anti-Catholic, anti-republican and anti-democratic Windsor dynasty - with his party's "Social Democratic and Labour" mantle hasn't yet been explained.

Maybe Alasdair McDonnell would like to tell us.

UDR's core values

Willie Frazer, the globetrotting head of the so-called victims' group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, actually conceded that the UDR had contained "a few bad apples" before adding hastily "but less than one per cent of the 50,000 people who joined the regiment were dropping information to the loyalist paramilitaries".

But the UDR's own bosses - the British Army high command - have already contradicted Willie, as a Dáil Select Committee into the Barron Report on the 1975 loyalist bombing of Dundalk heard just 48 hours before the RIR/UDR celebration.

TDs heard evidence from the Pat Finucane Centre, in the form of a British Army report from 1973 entitled 'Subversion in the UDR'.

British military intelligence then estimated that between five and 15 per cent of UDR soldiers were actively involved in the UDA, UVF and other unionist death squads. The TDs were reminded that the British Army itself found that the UDR was "the best single source of weapons" for the UDA, UVF, et al.

James McGull, solicitor for the two men killed in the bombing of Kay's Tavern in Dundalk, told the Dáil committee that, rather than containing rotten apples, the UDR was "rotten to the core".

Remembering the few?

60,000 men and women have served in the UDR and RIR from the UDR's formation in 1970 (including members of the notorious B Specials) to the disbandment of the RIR Home Service Battalions next July.

"To its credit," a Belfast Telegraph editorial claimed on Saturday, "the regiment never shirked from expressing its abhorrence of [involvement with loyalist death squads]. But the despicable actions of the few should not detract from the valour of the many."

The few?

Even if it was only five per cent of 60,000 soldiers, that's 3,000 people who received highly professional military training from the British Army for the benefit of unionist death squads. If it was 15 per cent, that's 9,000 people. That's more than a few - that's the size of an army for a small nation!

Marching orders

A former commandant of the UDR's 5th Battalion (County Derry), Brigadier David Millar, was quite clear about the consequences of clearing out the 'bad apples'.

Brigadier Millar said that if he expelled every soldier involved in loyalist paramilitaries he would be left without a regiment!

Prime suspects

The members of one organisation named but not investigated in the self-styled Independent Monitoring Commission's recent report have actually increased their criminal activities some seven-fold in the past two years: the PSNI.

Nearly £30,000 (€44,000) worth of valuables have been stolen from PSNI bases, a huge rise from the £4,000 recorded in 2004/2005.

And the loot includes a police car stolen by a Peeler.

According to the Irish News, more than 100 thefts of personal and police property worth £250 each were reported between March 2004 and March 2006. That's the trouble with police stations: they're full of thieves.

Gearing up for the election

A candidate for the presidency of Catalonia has decided to spice up his election campaign. He's plastering the country with thousands of posters of himself in his birthday suit, diplomatically covering his credentials with just his hands.

Lawyer Albert Rivera (26) is an outsider and his Citizens' Party is critical of Catalan nationalist initiatives. But the buck naked barrister has caught the eye of some voters by appearing in the altogether.

Let's hope Michael McDowell, Reg Empey and Sammy Wilson don't follow suit.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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