During a committee meeting yesterday, Sinn Féin MLA Maolíosa McHugh interrupted proceedings to ask the assembly clerk if he would investigate whether it was permitted for Mr Allister to have the book on display. The volume was, Conspicuous Gallantry, Anthony Leask’s book on the service of the men and women of 8th (Co Tyrone) Battalion of the UDR.
“Workplaces should be neutral spaces,” Mr McHugh said yesterday. “Nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable in their workplace. The role and record of the UDR is one of violent state-sponsored sectarianism. Mr Allister’s prominent display of this book during a Committee meeting had the very real potential to cause offense to the many victims of this now disbanded force.”
The reference work Lost Lives gives a detailed breakdown of all the murders carried out by terror groups during the troubles, as well as deaths caused by legitmately armed security forces, both north and south. It lists deaths caused by the UDR as eight while by contrast the IRA claimed 1781 lives. The INLA claimed 127, UVF 544 and UDA 430. The Army was responsible for 239, RUC 50, Irish police three and Irish army two.
It found republicans were responsible for almost 60% of deaths in the Troubles, loyalists 30% and security forces north and south, which were by contrast lawfully armed, 10%. The UDR was responsible for 0.2% of deaths.
Mr Allister said that as he was working remotely “frankly the contents of my study are none of his business”.
He added: “I note, however, that a book which testifies to the bravery of the security forces in facing down the threat of terrorism raises such ire from republicans simply by existing! Sinn Fein/IRA are so intent on whitewashing the shameful bloody record of the Provos that they cannot so much as tolerate Mr Leask’s excellent book being in my study.
“Having blocked a centenary stone, a rose bush for the centenary and a tree being planted for Her Majesty’s Jubilee Republicans now move to try to dictate the content of my study because they are so easily offended!”
During the exchange, committee chairman UUP MLA Steve Aiken openly chuckled while noting that not only did he have the same book visible from his shelf during video calls, but that he had many other items relating to his service in the Royal Navy also on display from his study. He was not working remotely during the hearing.
The committee clerk turned to Mr Aiken and said he was not aware of any assembly rules that would govern items in Mr Allister’s study but that he would look into it. Asked some 24 hours later if it had found any rules which might regulate Mr Allister on the matter, an assembly spokeswoman said: “We have no comment to make at this time.”
DUP Finance Committee member Ulster Keith Buchanan has said the objection by Sinn Fein is an insight towards their true attitude towards the British identity in Northern Ireland.
“Most MLAs were embarrassed,” he said of the Sinn Fein interjection. “We have serious business to do and Sinn Fein’s greatest concern is the contents of someone’s bookshelf.
“Sinn Fein defends and celebrates the most heinous of murders by the PIRA yet is offended by a centenary stone, a rose bush, a Queen’s jubilee tree and now a book about the UDR. It would seem that Sinn Fein’s so-called ‘new Ireland’ will have its own banned book list. The unscripted view put forward in a Committee meeting demonstrates a lot about the true Sinn Fein attitude and towards the British identity in Northern Ireland.”
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