Daily IrelandUDR/RIR £250 million payoff – ‘For justice, the truth of this regiment’s role must be independently investigated’
By Jarlath Kearney
10/03/2006 Relatives of people killed by the UDR/RIR yesterday described a £250 million (€364) million ‘golden handshake’ for 3,000 soldiers as ‘repugnant and offensive’.
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The British government announced the severance package at Westminster after six months of pressure by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The disbandment of RIR units based in the North – known as the Home Service – was announced last July within days of the IRA’s historic statement ordering its volunteers to pursue purely political activities.
The British government’s severance package will ensure full-time soldiers receive £28,000 (€40,800) on top of a redundancy payment and life pension. Part-time RIR members will receive £14,000 (€20,400), as well as their redundancy and pension.
Responding to the announcement, DUP leader Ian Paisley stressed his party’s opposition to the disbandment of the RIR.
However, he said that the DUP “made a very strong case to the MoD... on the basis of comparative equality with payments made to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the prison officers”.
“The price of their life’s blood which many of them sacrificed can never be valued. I am personally glad that the socio-economic difficulties that these men will have to face in getting employment in the province have been recognised by the government and we will continue to discuss these matters with the government,” Mr Paisley said.
Between 1970 and 1990, over 300 members of the UDR were convicted of serious loyalist offences.
Following the collusion scandal of the late 1980s, when security photo montages of Catholics were published by loyalist paramilitaries, the British government renamed the regiment as the RIR. However, even as recently as July 2004, 28 RIR members were removed from duties after the “disappearance” of a major intelligence document about 400 nationalists from the Castlereagh security base in east Belfast.
Relatives for Justice (RFJ), which campaigns for victims affected by state violence, condemned the severance payments.
RFJ spokesperson Tommy Carroll, whose brother Adrian was killed by UDR members in 1983, said: “This is a payoff to put a gloss on what was otherwise a shameful chapter. It is an affront to the memory of those killed as a result of the UDR/RIR activities and all decent people who had the misfortune to endure the sectarian abuse and harrassment that was the UDR/RIR.
“For many, their ‘duty’ saw no distinction between their role in the UDR/RIR and their loyalist murder gang of choice. For those nationalists on the receiving end there was little distinction either.
“The issue of truth and justice are paramount. The British government has yet to recognise the terrible injustices it inflicted through its armed forces. It has yet to face up to policies of collusion, of which the UDR/RIR was at the heart,” Mr Carroll said.
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, described the RIR and UDR as a “paramilitary force”.
“Sinn Féin have consistently raised the issue of the continuing role of the RIR, its sectarian composition and its collusion with the unionist paramilitaries,” Ms Gildernew said.
“The issue of collusion and the RIR will not go away. Unionist arguments about the economic implications resulting from the scrapping of the RIR expose the truth about their opposition to progress on demilitarisation. It is based on unionist self-interest not the interests of the peace process or the demilitarisation of our society.
“Rather than seek a British exchequer subvention of millions for the exclusive benefit of the unionist population, I believe that many people in places like Fermanagh and Tyrone would prefer to see this money spent on improving the roads infrastructure, improving local schools and in developing the local economy to the benefit of everyone,” Ms Gildernew said.
SDLP assembly member Dominic Bradley described the severance package as “a pay-off to the DUP”.
“But the important point to remember is that the RIR is gone from the political landscape. The RIR was a political and community relations disaster like its predecessors, the UDR and the B-Specials.
“Collusion with loyalist killer gangs was rife and systemic in many parts of the UDR and no significant attempt was made to clean it up before it was rolled over into the RIR,” Mr Bradley said.