UDR tribute plans are approved by two Northern Ireland councils despite Sinn Fein opposition

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Plans to mark the sacrifice of the men and women who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment through the Troubles have been supported at two Northern Ireland councils despite Sinn Fein opposition.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s corporate committee has approved £3,000 for DUP Mayor Andrew Gowan to host a reception at Lisburn’s St Paul’s Church Hall this November for the UDR’s Greenfinches were set up on July 6, 1973 as unarmed women recruits who assisted in female body searches.

And Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have approved a contribution of £1,000 towards a UDR memorial in Randalstown.

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Opposition to the proposal in Lisburn and Castlereagh came from the unionist controlled council’s first ever Sinn Fein deputy mayor, Gary McCleave.

A UDR patrol in Belfast in 1991A UDR patrol in Belfast in 1991
A UDR patrol in Belfast in 1991

He said: “When this motion first came to the council chamber I was opposed to it. The UDR was actively involved in collusion and murder (during the Troubles).

“This council should be neutral, I cannot actively support this. I would ask why this has not gone through equality screening?”

A council officer responded: “This is not a policy decision, the equality screening is not necessary.“This is just to decide on the funding and format for the event.”

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The funding for the anniversary event was approved at the committee with all Sinn Fein elected reps voting against.

Meanwhile members of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council’s Community Planning Committee agreed to contribute the sum of £1,000 to the Randalstown branch of the Royal British Legion towards the cost of the UDR memorial.

A report to the committee said Randalstown RBL installed a memorial to the UDR in the town’s memorial garden in April and the branch has asked if the council “might wish to consider making a financial contribution given the support to the installation of UDR memorials in Antrim and Ballyclare”.

Speaking at the Community Planning Committee meeting, Ulster Unionist Councillor Stewart Wilson said: “It is important we as a council continue to remember those who held the line and protected it in our nation’s darkest days.”

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Sinn Fein Councillor Rosie Kinnear, deputy mayor, said it was appropriate to remember the dead but not use a council contribution to do so. She added that the memorial has already been established. “To approve this would not be reflective of a council trying to serve citizens of a diverse borough,” she stated.

DUP Alderman Stephen Ross said he was “very happy to second” the proposed contribution and welcomed the memorial for the “people of Randalstown and those who stood front and centre against Provo terrorists”.

Sinn Fein Cllr Maighread Ni Chonghaile stated: “I agree with the deputy mayor. I do not think it is appropriate with regard to spending council money, so I oppose.”

Cllr Ni Chonghaile said she would like it to be recorded that there was “some disagreement in the chamber”.

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Later in the meeting, Cllr Webb pointed out there was supposed to have been a recorded vote on the proposal the recommendation be approved.

A vote resulted in ten votes in favour and three against from the Sinn Fein members and an abstention by the SDLP.