Invitation of representatives of UDR to war commemoration 'grossly offensive'

Wednesday November 2, 2011

 Since 1986 there has been a National Day of Commemoration held on the first Sunday of July each year in Kilmainham Hospital, Dublin, to commemorate those Irish who died in both World Wars or on service with the United Nations. Indeed, it is entirely appropriate that this commemoration is held.

The President, Taoiseach, leaders of the opposition and religious heads from all the main churches are invited to attend. This is truly a national commemoration to honour with sombre dignity and proud respect, those Irish who went away and never returned.

 However, I note that November 5th next in Drogheda, the British ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Mr Julian King, will jointly lead a Ceremony of Remembrance with the Mayor of Drogheda Kevin Callan, to recall those Irish who died in the First World War in the service of the Crown.

This commemoration will also include former servicemen and women from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR). Many will find the inclusion of former UDR servicemen and women grossly offensive. It will be seen as an attempt to confer a retrospective respectability on a sectarian regiment of the British army under the guise of honouring Ireland's Great War dead.

 Formed in 1970 following recommendations from the Hunt Report, the UDR was the reincarnation of the "B Specials" and was infiltrated by and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries. Dual membership of the UDR and UDA was commonplace. In 1972, 190 UDR weapons were allegedly lost, most of which ended up in the hands of loyalists and used during sectarian attacks on Catholics.

In 1975 two UDR soldiers were convicted of the murder of three members of the Miami Showband, while in the same attack two other UDR soldiers died when the bomb they were planting exploded prematurely. In 1989, 28 UDR soldiers from one platoon were arrested as part of the Steevens Inquiry. The issuing of this invitation to the UDR puts at risk the advancement of political ecumenism mandated by the disparate parts of the Irish nation and people in the Good Friday Agreement.

The acres of ink and paper in which Irish based journalists collectively questioned the moral suitability of some candidates to contest the recent presidential election are now collectively mute on the moral suitability of those representing the UDR travelling to the Boyne. It is a case of blatantly hypocritical double standards.

 Why is our National Day of Commemoration, which remembers the barbarism inflicted on our great-grandparents’ generation, not sufficient? The sacrifice of those who gave their lives in such an appalling conflict is being diminished and devalued by the attendance of representatives of the sectarian UDR. Their memory should be protected from these political opportunists. Whoever issued the invitation to this organisation to attend this commemoration to honour those Irish dead of the Great War, did not do so in my name, nor do I suspect in many others' names either.,

Tom Cooper,

(Cathaoirleach – INC)