02 May 2006

Ingram rejects fund to aid UDR families

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael McHugh
02 May 2006

The Government came under fire last night after the Ministry of Defence refused to establish a fund supporting the widows and children of UDR victims of the Troubles.

The DUP has vowed to oppose the decision, which follows the establishment of a Police Fund for RUC widows and disabled officers.

The refusal was given in a written response by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram to Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson and follows the announcement earlier this year of a substantial package of support for Royal Irish Regiment soldiers, who include UDR veterans, who are being made redundant.

There are already a series of support services in place for widows but Mr Donaldson said the news still came as a blow.

"I am very disappointed. We had made the case that the establishment of the Police Fund created a precedent which ought to be replicated in the case of the UDR widows," he said.

"The fund helps provide practical assistance and support to RUC widows and their children and helps RUC officers who are disabled as a result of terrorist violence and we felt that there was a need for a similar fund to be created for the UDR.

"We owe a great debt to the UDR soldiers who lost their lives or were seriously injured as a result of the service that they provided to the whole community in protecting people against terrorism."

Mr Ingram's parliamentary answer said the matter was analysed by his officials last summer.

"This study indicated that post-1974 UDR widows were no worse off than their RUC counterparts and most are somewhat better off," he said.

"Should there be any individual hardship cases, those concerned would be eligible for assistance either from the UDR Benevolent Fund or through the Royal Irish Regiment Welfare Staff, but there are no plans to establish a separate fund on the lines suggested."

The UDR Benevolent Fund helps organise outings and social gatherings with widows and their children as well as providing practical assistance.

Jim Potter, who helped establish the first UDR welfare provision in 1985, said that while more cash would be welcome, there was already significant provision.

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