03 September 2005

MP in new call to retain at least one RIR battalion

Belfast Telegraph

By Claire Regan
03 September 2005

THE DUP today urged the Government to retain at least one of the three home service Royal Irish Regiment battalions which are to be axed in less than two years.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson called on Defence Secretary John Reid to consider keeping one of the threatened Northern Ireland-based battalions along with the RIR's foreign service battalion which is to continue.

Speaking to the BBC's Inside Politics programme, the DUP man said: "It is our view that the Government should retain a second battalion based here as part of the garrison of 5,000 soldiers in Northern Ireland."

The DUP was outraged when the Army announced last month that the RIR's three home battalions are to be disbanded as "there will be no military requirement" for them if the IRA sticks to its pledge of standing down.

The decision will see some 3,000 members of the battalions, who provide military support in Northern Ireland alone, paid off over the next two years. It came as part of a number of security cutbacks, including the dismantling of security posts, set out in response to the IRA declaration.

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