New UDR memorial is a bid to ‘keep good name of regiment alive’ in the face of efforts to ‘airbrush it from history’

Some of those observing the ceremony of dedication of the stone on Sunday (C/O the NI Veterans Commissioner)Some of those observing the ceremony of dedication of the stone on Sunday (C/O the NI Veterans Commissioner)
Some of those observing the ceremony of dedication of the stone on Sunday (C/O the NI Veterans Commissioner)
A new memorial honouring the UDR is a small contribution to keeping its “good name” alive in the face of efforts to “airbrush” its contribution out of history, a former soldier has said.

The memorial takes the form of a polished marble stone in the garden of remembrance next to Inver Park in the town, paid for by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

It was unveiled at a commemorative service on Sunday and Norman Gray, the chairman of the Larne branch of the UDR Association, praised all involved.

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“We had young people there, and it was nice to see them, because they’ll be our history in the future,” Mr Gray told the News Letter.

The UDR memorial stoneThe UDR memorial stone
The UDR memorial stone

“It’s for people to go and pay their respects, sit in the garden and reflect – and, more importantly, to ensure that the good name of the UDR lives on for generations to come.”

Wreaths were laid, the Last Post played, and a period of silence observed.

This year marks three decades since the UDR was disbanded and folded into the Royal Irish Regiment.

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Mr Gray himself served 12 years in the UDR, including as an instructor in Ballykinler.

He left in 1990 with the rank of corporal.

“There’s people in society who’d like to airbrush the regiment out of the history books, as well as the RUC,” he said.

“They stood toe-to-toe with terrorism of all shades.

“Not only that, but they served all the community.

“They [the regiment’s detractors] just want to take away all the good work the UDR and RUC did.

“But if it wasn’t for the RUC and UDR standing up to the terrorists, there’d have been a lot more innocent people killed.”

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There were two bands of the Royal Irish Regiment (the successor organisation to the UDR) – one pipe-and-drums, and the other a silver band – and attendees had come from as far away as Coleraine and Castlederg.

The UDR became operational on April 1, 1970.

Though it its reputation has frequently come underfire form nationalists and republicans, the number of deaths attributed to it is comparatively tiny.

From 1970 to 1992 inclusive, the regiment killed eight people. In that same period, 236 members (or retired members) of the regiment were killed.

In 1991 alone, the last full year before its disbandment, 10 of its members were murdered.

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These figures come from the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), run by Ulster University.

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