A decorated Royal Irish Regiment officer has joined the Ulster Unionist Party, in what would appear to be a significant coup for Mike Nesbitt’s party.
Captain Doug Beattie, who was regimental sergeant major to Colonel Tim Collins in Iraq, was announced as a UUP member yesterday but it is not yet clear whether the Portadown-born soldier will stand for the UUP in May’s council elections.
Mr Beattie, who is in his late 40s, is married with two grown-up children. He retired as a full-time soldier in 2008 but remains a member of the Territorial Army.
He was unavailable for interview yesterday but UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: “Doug has spent the last 32 years in uniform, winning the Military Cross for service in Afghanistan and a Queen’s Commendation for bravery in Iraq.
“As he winds down his military career, he feels the time is right to find another way to serve his country. I am delighted he has chosen politics and the Ulster Unionist Party.”
The UUP leader said that Mr Beattie had been “discussing politics since he came to our party conference in 2011 to talk about the needs of our Armed Forces and veterans” – and added that “he has thought long and hard about getting engaged in politics, so this is a well thought-out decision and all the more welcome for it”.
In the past, Mr Beattie has spoken candidly about the mental torment of reconciling his actions in war — bayonetting another man and calling in an airstrike on a compound where he knew there were wounded Taliban fighters — with his conscience.
In a 2008 interview with the News Letter, Mr Beattie spoke about how, when he joined the Army, he was bullied by English soldiers who, after being targeted in Northern Ireland, “hated the Irish”.
“Back then in 1982 we were the Muslims of the age. The moment people heard your accent, you got a strange look, and the Army was no different.”
Mr Beattie, who once guarded senior Nazi Rudolf Hess in Spandau Prison, also recalled the first time he killed someone: “It happens in a millisecond, and the detail fades away, but even though he was trying to kill me, I still think of how me killing that man affected so many other people’s lives, and still analyse whether I was right to pull the trigger, because there’s nothing worse in the world than taking another person’s life.”