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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

MEA Council backs motion to mark 50th anniversary of UDR Greenfinches

A member of the UDR Greenfinches beside an army vehicle.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has supported a motion to mark the 50th anniversary of the recruitment of women into the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The motion was proposed by council’s Veterans’ Champion, Alderman Billy Ashe MBE at a meeting at The Braid in Ballymena last Monday evening, 3rd April.

The female recruits known as Greenfinches were permitted to join the UDR following the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill on July 6 1973.

“To mark this anniversary, we ask the council to work with local UDR associations to support planned events in Mid and East Antrim,” said Ald Ashe.

The Carrickfergus Castle DUP representative explained the legislation was brought forward “as a matter of urgency” to enable female soldiers to search female civilians.  Ald Ashe recalled four Greenfinches were murdered between 1974 and 1992.

“Greenfinches were unarmed but faced the same threat from terrorism as their male colleagues. The Greenfinches were an important and valuable asset to the Ulster Defence Regiment and many served within the ranks.

“They too have served their country, played a part in protecting the law-abiding population, stepped forward and played a part in ensuring those with murder and mayhem on their minds did not succeed.

“It is for these reasons, I believe this 50th anniversary needs to be commemorated and celebrated. I have put forward a notice of motion that says this council honours the 50th anniversary of the Greenfinches in Northern Ireland.

“We are forever grateful for their commitment and sacrifice and to mark this anniversary, we ask the council to work with the local UDR associations to support planned events in the Mid and East Antrim area.”

Seconding the motion, party colleague Larne Lough Cllr Gregg McKeen said the Greenfinches were brought in at a time when it was “a difficult place and a difficult time for females to come into the regiment especially when facilities and accommodation were designed to cater for males”.

He noted 352 female members signed up in the first year.

“They were trailblazers. The integration of women into the UDR led to females being brought into mainstream regiments of the British Army,” he stated.

“Those Greenfinches came into a situation within Northern Ireland where their lives were at threat. Four died in active service between 1974 and 1992.”

He added that “in this 50th year, we should take this occasion and mark the service and recognition that those females deserve”.

Braid TUV Cllr Christopher Jamieson said:

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the women of the UDR and their families for their service to the protection of this province. We would like to thank those four Greenfinches who paid that ultimate sacrifice when the IRA murdered them in cold blood.

“My thoughts lie tonight with their families as they continue to deal with the loss of loved ones who were so mindlessly taken away from them.

“It is right the council work with the associations to mark this anniversary fittingly and also to provide long-term support to those who gave so much in service to this country and still deal with the real-life scars of the brutality that was forced on us by terrorists. The TUV will be supporting this motion.”

Bannside Sinn Fein Cllr Ian Friary commented:

“The disbandment of the regiment by the British Government serves as evidence there is no cause for celebration in its history over many years.

“Examples within the UDR were found to have played a direct role in sectarian killing here in the North and its members provided weapons and information to loyalist gangs and used to kill nationalists and republicans.

“It is scandalous to honour this regiment. Further inquiries that highlight the corruption of the UDR included the Stevens’ Inquiry which highlighted widespread collusion between the British forces and loyalist terrorists.

“We believe there is no merit in this motion and will only serve to hark back to the past and further divide our communities. Perhaps that is the intention of those who proposed this motion in the run-up to the council election. We formally oppose this motion.”

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Keith Turner said:

“Well, that was a party political broadcast. We, the Ulster Unionist Party, support this motion. We know the bravery and the dedication that was shown by the female elements of the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Greenfinches.

“I personally would like to see us campaign for the part-time element to also get a pension. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the female element. They stopped a lot of terrorists doing a lot of bad things.”

Ballymena SDLP Cllr Eugene Reid asked for his abstention with regard to the motion to be noted.

Braid TUV Cllr Brian Collins remarked:

“I don’t think they were disbanded. You will find they were integrated in along with the Royal Irish Rangers to compose the Royal Irish Regiment.”

Ald Ashe continued: “The Greenfinches had no weapons, so I don’t know how we can listen to nonsense about them giving weapons to loyalist gangs. I have brought this motion as the Armed Forces Champion here in Mid and East Antrim not for party political broadcast or anything else.

“The people deserve to be recognised. They deserve to be honoured and we’ll not take any nonsense from Sinn Fein.”

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Ald Noel Williams, said the proposal will be taken forward by officers for equality screening and financial assessment and will be brought back to the next meeting for a final decision.


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