WHAT WAS THE UDR FOR? by Donal Kennedy

When the setting up of the Regiment was first announced I thought the idea was crazy. Following the 1969 disturbances a British judge recommended the disarming of the regular RUC and the disbanding of the B Specials. I thought the recommendations sensible and that they would make room for reform and constructive politics.

Riots in Belfast’s Shankill Road in September 1969 followed the announcement of the proposal to disarm the the RUC during which Loyalists shot dead a Constable Arbuckle, the first RUC fatality since the IRA in 1962 called off their failed quixotic campaign and apparently intended to renounce armed struggle permanently.  The first British Army casualty (in August 1969) was a Belfast Catholic who was home on leave: he died when an RUC armoured Car discharged belt-loads of bullets from a Vickers machine gun on an unarmed community.                                                                                           
 The last thing Ireland, or   Northeast Ireland needed, was more armed men. I believe now that professionals who  had made a career of repression and aggression  across half the globe inspired the creation of the UDR. I don’t think there was a White Paper or a considered debate in Parliament about it.

12 Responses to WHAT WAS THE UDR FOR? by Donal Kennedy

  1. Larry April 21, 2017 at 9:11 am #

    Jude, I remember that it was put across as a softener to Unionism after the loss of their beloved B Specials. Someone probably thought that the British might have more control over a regiment of the British Army (don’t laugh) than with a load of clansmen in police uniform joined at the hip to the Orange Order and Unionist Party. As it turned out B men were encouraged to join the UDR and with them loyalist paramilitaries who got trained, stole modern weapons as at Magherafelt, Coolkeeragh, etc. and also carried out sectarian attacks in uniform as with Miami showband and Glenanne gang killings not to mention the wider collusion in more recent times.

  2. Jim Neeson April 21, 2017 at 9:37 am #

    To replace the B Specials. Certain SDLP politicians were deluded in advising Catholics to join as they said it would help to stop the UDR becoming a replica of the Specials. Catholics who fell for this delusion were soon hounded out.It should be noted that UDR were scarce on the ground in North & West Belfast. On the subject of the UDR why did Jeffrey get his knighthood?
    Was it his valour in the Service of his God & Ulster in the UDR?

    • Emmet April 21, 2017 at 11:13 am #

      Did the SDLP really advise Catholics to join the UDR? I knew they basically acted as cheerleaders for the Brit war machine but this is offering more than symbolic support. Do you have any evidence? I am genuinely shocked.

      • Jack Black April 21, 2017 at 11:31 am #

        Yes Emmett, they did, together with many in the the Church.

        • Emmet April 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

          This feels like that moment in Braveheart where Wallace removes the King’s bodyguard helmet to discover it was de Bruce. Is this in writing anywhere or was it just verbal?

          I had a low opinion of the SDLP when they called rent and rates strikes assuring people they should all stick together and they wouldn’t have to pay, only to renege when they got their political concessions and left the people with even more debt than they started with. This pales in comparison though.

      • Jim Neeson April 21, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

        Yes they and certain Church leaders advised Catholics to join the UDR. I was one of the idiots who listened to Seamus Mallon and Austin Currie in Falls Park telling us not to pay rents. When they went into power they stopped our family allowance to pay the rent back.

      • Jude Collins April 21, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

        I distinctly remember Austin Currie declaring his intention to join and, as I recall it, urging other nationalists to do likewise. I think he may later have changed his mind…

        • fiosrach April 21, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

          Several of Austin Currie’s brothers joined but in a brave gesture they removed the badge from the beret. Any taigs who were foolish enough to listen to the SDLP and did join were put to the front of a checkpoint and were unarmed.

  3. myles sweeney April 21, 2017 at 11:20 am #

    Sure wasn’t our Geoffrey gallant enough to offer the rivers and loughs of Ireland when “the mainland” thought they might lose out over the Scottish chucking the nuclear subs?

  4. gendjinn April 22, 2017 at 12:27 am #

    The UDR was wound up in 92 and later that year the UDA was proscribed. As early as 1973 the UDR 5-15% of its membership were working with illegal Unionist organisations, dual membership in the UDA was not included in that figure.

  5. ANOTHER JUDE April 22, 2017 at 1:29 am #

    Didn’t it come into being on April Fools Day 1970? I rest my case.

  6. Willie D. April 23, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    The U.D.R. was essentially set up as a sop to the Unionist population in the wake of the disbandment of the B Specials. Its other inadvertent main function was to provide the I.R.A. with a shooting gallery of sitting duck part-time targets, which they targeted overwhelmingly when they at their day jobs, or at home. Perusing the “Lost Lives” tome, which covers all the “Troubles” killings, I see that the U.D.R. was responsible for 8 deaths, 0.2% of the total, while the I.R.A. killed 181 members of the U.D.R..