10 March 2006

Daily Ireland Editorial: RIR prolonged and deepened conflict

Daily Ireland

Editor: Colin O’Carroll

So, when it came down to brass tacks, the DUP worked out that the incalculable debt that the people of the North owe to the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) is in fact very calculable indeed – £28,000 (€40,7000) a head for full timers, in fact and £14,000 (€20,350) for part timers.
The instinctive reaction to news that British armed forces minister Adam Ingram is to spend £250 million (€364 million) on pay-offs to the doomed home service battalions of the RIR is to point to other areas where such a vast sum could be much better spent. And we can’t help feeling that it would have been nice if the British could have directed some of that vast amount of money to the many victims of the RIR and their blood-soaked predecessors, the UDR.
After all, the British government directed that baleful nexus of the UDR/RIR and loyalist paramilitaries whose raison d’être was to strike terror into the Catholic community and who carried out some of the most sickening atrocities of the Troubles. Not a bit of it. Not only do we have to put up with the idea of that discredited regiment being handsomely remunerated for their part in the sectarian slaughter, but we have to listen to endless claptrap about how the brave men and women of the RIR/UDR stopped the North from sliding into the abyss.
“They [RIR/UDR] should all be rightly proud of the of the crucial role they have played in creating the environment for normalisation,” said Mr Ingram yesterday. Crucial role? Normalisation? Ask any Catholic who was ever stopped by some tattooed louts in uniform up a country lane at night what they think of the regiment’s crucial role in creating the environment for normalisation, Mr Ingram, and you’ll get a rather different answer. The fact of the matter is that the regiment did as much, if not more, to deepen and prolong the conflict than any of the illegal paramilitaries.
That the regiment is happy to take money to go away quietly is as good a measure of its calibre as any. And that the DUP was the main broker behind the deal says much about that party’s priorities. But at least the main unionist party has learned that a defeat doesn’t have to be total – sometimes a bit of filthy lucre can be salvaged from the ruins.
They failed to smash the IRA; they failed to crush Sinn Féin; they failed to save the B Specials; they failed to rescue the RUC. They failed to save the RIR, too, but at least this time they got their pals in uniform a few extra quid. It’s official: for the DUP, serving Ulster is worth the price of a conservatory or a time-share in the Algarve.
Even as we speak, the DUP are engaged in a similarly grubby deal with the British government over what size of a wad it’s going to take to persuade Protestants not to wreck the place every time they’re denied permission to march. Really, you have to wonder what Edward Carson would make of it all.

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