After attending the service to commemorate the sacrifice and dedication of the UDR and RIR in St Anne’s Cathedral I was left with an overwhelming sense of privilege. Sharing an occasion with so many brave and dedicated men and woman and sensing the atmosphere of the event marked by the knowledge of so many absent friends. Many of us can recount and recall the hundreds who lost their lives serving with these regiments.
The event comes at the start of the week which marks the end of the Army’s active role in the province. Operation Banner as it was called was the Army's longest continuous campaign in its history with more than 300,000 personnel serving and 763 murdered by terrorists. Yet their withdrawal has been purposely low key with few if any paying tribute to their role and sacrifice.
Even the service on Sunday was billed as a service of reflection, this politically correct term is not in keeping with the proud traditions of the British army. While we all may reflect on the role of the army it is to commemorate the loss of so many gallant men and women that we must unite in worship. The long years of service and dedication in the face of terrorist onslaught.
However in today’s political climate there is an unwillingness to name the enemy and tell the truth of what happened. It was as if the UDR and RIR were fighting an imaginary enemy. Today we have services such as this without ever mentioning let alone indicting the enemy. It is a paradoxical situation where the government can honour both sides in this war, gallantry medals for the armed forces and government position for the terrorists.
However for the men and women who served and for the families that have been left bereaved there is no need for reflection or no place for ambiguity. For them the distinction between right and wrong is clear, their loved ones and comrades were the heroes their enemy the villains. As a group FAIR would like to pay the highest tribute to these men and women and to pledge our continuing unending support to those injured or bereaved. We call for the government both centrally in London and in Belfast to stand with us in supporting the UDR and RIR family not just in word but in deed.
Those who served cannot be forgotten and the end of the army’s operation role here cannot go unmarked. We wish to demonstrate our gratitude to the young men who gave the best years of their lives and in many tragic cases their very lives to defend us. To that end FAIR will be hosting a commemoration tomorrow Tuesday to the role of the British Army in South Armagh. We hope to have past and serving members present and at a time when the government appears willing to airbrush us out of history we will be saying loudly that we are proud of our past. The event will be a small way of marking the gratitude of local people and we will be commemorating with pride the role and sacrifice of the regiments.
HELP US TELL THE TRUTH