12 November 2005

Lord Laird slams no uniform decision 'outrageous'

Belfast Telegraph

By Marie Foy
mfoy@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
12 November 2005

A DECISION by the Ministry of Defence to forbid Royal Irish Regiment members from wearing their uniforms at some Remembrance ceremonies has been branded "outrageous" by a unionist peer.

Lord Laird has been in contact with the Ministry in a bid to reverse the ruling.

"This is trying to take away people's basic rights," the Ulster Unionist politician insisted.

"For 30 years locally recruited soldiers have been able to pay tribute to their fallen comrades and friends, some of them fathers, uncles or grandfathers or men who have died alongside them.

"This has been taken away by the MOD and they are saying they will discipline anyone who transgresses. It is a step too far.

"Those soldiers died mainly in the line of duty in their uniforms. Why can't their comrades honour them in theirs.

"This is putting salt in the wound, particularly as it comes in the week when the On The Run legislation is being allowed to come back in.

"This is another obscenity towards the unionist people of Northern Ireland and we are not putting up with it."

An Army spokesman confirmed that only those attending events in an official capacity would be allowed to wear uniforms.

The spokesman said that the regiment had reduced in size over the years and there was no longer enough manpower to officially attend every Remembrance ceremony and service in the province.

For example, the 3rd Royal Battalion, based at Drumadd Barracks in Co Armagh, would have official representation at around 40 memorial events on Remembrance Sunday.

He said that members of the regiment were still permitted to attend the other events, just not in uniform.

The spokesman added that they had been in contact with the UDR Association, the Royal British Legion and other groups to ask them to play a greater part in the organisation of events.

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