29 December 2005

Pay-offs of £60,000 demanded for soldiers

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
nmcadam@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
29 December 2005

ULSTER Unionists have demanded £60,000 pay-offs for Royal Irish Regiment members - on top of the standard Army redundancy terms, it has been confirmed.

And the party also wants £1,500 for each year served for part-timers as well as a retraining package.

Party leader Sir Reg Empey said the package for the axed Regiment's soldiers - expected to be announced early in the New Year - would prove a key test for Secretary of State Peter Hain.

But he warned that he feared the announcement could fall "well short" of what he believed is required.

"The final shape of the redundancy package for members of the Royal Irish Regiment's home service soldiers will be an early test of Peter Hain's commitment to deliver confidence building measures," he said.

"Any feedback we have been getting in recent weeks would indicate a package well short of what is required to take into account the unique situation that soldiers find themselves in here."

His call came after Mr Hain revealed he has asked Cabinet Ministers to be generous in relation to the Royal Irish Regiment.

Sir Reg said he hoped Mr Hain convinces his colleagues in Government that a meaningful deal is needed "especially because of the appalling manner of the announcement of the decision concerning the regiment and the need for soldiers to retire with dignity and in good order".

"Given that Peter Hain and Defence Secretary John Reid both say that the Royal Irish soldiers have in fact completed their task, then let the Government put its money where its mouth is.

"After all, nearly £200m has been made available for the Saville Inquiry so I see no justification for a penny pinching package for the Royal Irish."

The DUP, which has been involved in detailed negotiations with Dr John Reid, the former Northern Ireland Secretary of State, on the RIR package, has said the announcement will help determine its approach to political negotiations.

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