Victims’ group on Operation Banner veterans: ‘We salute their contribution’

Soldiers in riot gear on the Limestone Road in north Belfast
Soldiers in riot gear on the Limestone Road in north Belfast
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A leading victims’ group in Northern Ireland has praised the peace-keeping efforts of the military and other security forces during Operation Banner.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the troop deployment, Innocent Victims United spokesman Kenny Donaldson said those who upheld the principles of democracy should have their important contribution acknowledged.

“For those who served and who risked their lives, their limbs and their wits, we salute the contribution they and their families have made,” he said.

“We also recognise the futility of terrorism and criminal violence and we think of all those innocents who were murdered or died over the period of Operation Banner.”

Mr Donaldson said: “Northern Ireland was in a dangerous place and could so easily have plunged into all-out civil war. Young soldiers from across the United Kingdom and beyond were despatched to the streets of Northern Ireland to try to bring a measure of stability to communities torn apart by sectarian violence and division.

“Those young men sent here on tours of duty came to do a job, they came to support and defend the principles of democracy.”

Mr Donaldson added: “It needs recognised that 300,000 individual soldiers attached to the regular Army regiments completed tours of duty in Northern Ireland with over 60,000 serving through the Home Service UDR/RIrish. They were also supported by the USC and RUC on the streets and the NI Prison Service who literally lived with incarcerated terrorists.

“Did the Army get everything right? Of course they didn’t, no army across the world has an unblemished record and where wrong occurred it should be acknowledged and accounted for. However, it also needs acknowledging that the overall majority of those serving did so with courage, honour and professionalism – despite intense provocation through the forces of terrorism, the Army more times than not remained restrained.

The victims’ spokesman went on to say: “We also recognise the futility of terrorism and criminal violence and we think of all those innocents who were murdered or died over the period of Operation Banner.

“The legacy of those years of turmoil remain with us today and the continued refusal of our political system and its associated societal structures to acknowledge the wrong and illegitimacy of that violence threatens our present and future.”