By Sunday Life reporter
01 January 2006
THE families of four murdered UDR soldiers are to be allowed to erect their own commemoration after a memorial to the men was repeatedly desecrated.
The four soldiers were killed in a landmine attack near Downpatrick in Holy Week 1990 in one of the bloodiest days in the regiment's history.
Within days, a makeshift tribute was erected by locals and former UDR comrades.
But, over the years, hammers have been used in an attempt to smash the tiny granite memorial. Floral tributes have also been desecrated at the spot, at Ballydugan Road.
Another attack in May last year - first revealed by Sunday Life - has proven to be the final straw for some of the families.
However, they have now been given permission by Ards Borough Council to erect a memorial in Newtownards to their four sons who came from the Ards and Castlereagh areas.
Said DUP MLA Jim Shannon: "The council is pleased to be able to help the families who want to erect their own stone plinth with a plaque at the memorial gardens in Newtownards.
"The families felt unsafe going to the memorial at Ballydugan Road after it was vandalised and damaged over the years by republicans."
A request to the council to allow a memorial to be erected - alongside other tributes to police officers and soldiers - in the flower beds within the shadows of the town's war memorial was approved by Ards councillors.
Final agreement on the siting was reached at a meeting involving a family representative on Christmas Eve.
Added Mr Shannon: "The Ballydugan Road memorial will remain, but this will allow the families a place where they can honour their sons and husbands in peace and safety."
The four who were killed were John Birch (28), John Bradley (25), Michael Adams (23) and Steven Smart (23).
They were travelling in a Land-Rover from Ballykinlar UDR base to Downpatrick when the IRA detonated a 1,000lb landmine bomb hidden in a culvert.