Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has approved memorials and commemoration events to mark the 50th anniversary of the recruitment of women into the Ulster Defence Regiment.
The development was welcomed by Veterans’ Champion Carrickfergus Castle councillor Alderman Billy Ashe MBE. Last April, the council supported a motion to mark the milestone.
The female recruits, known as Greenfinches, were permitted to join the UDR following the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill on July 6 1973. A total of 352 female members signed up in the first year.
A report to councillors said it was agreed at a meeting with former Greenfinches in Carrickfergus a new memorial plinth be installed opposite the current UDR memorial at Marine Gardens which would be similar in scale to the RUC GC memorial.
However, the report noted it was agreed at a council meeting in July that this initiative and others be deferred “pending the re-setting of the budget”.
Meanwhile, Greenfinch veterans in Ballymena indicated they would like to mark the formation with a plaque on a small plinth in the town’s War Memorial Gardens and a tree adopted with a flowerbed landscaped around it.
The Larne group requested consideration be given to a “simple plaque portraying a Greenfinch bird” with details of female soldiers’ inauguration into the UDR to be placed at Larne Memorial Gardens.
All three branches have indicated they would each like a reception following unveiling ceremonies. It is anticipated the initiatives could be delivered by the council for the sum of £8,000.
Speaking at a meeting of the borough council earlier this week, Ald Ashe said he welcomed the report adding:
”It has taken a long time but it is here now.
“We have agreement across the borough with the members of the UDR Greenfinches who valiantly stood against the enemy and I think it’s fitting that we mark the occasion in the fitting manner that is before us.”
Bannside Sinn Fein Cllr Ian Friary stated:
“I still disagree with it.”
In response to a query, he was told that equality screening has been carried out for each of the three locations in the borough.
“Our equality screenings are desk-based exercises and unless they identify an impact, based on the data and evidence used for this screening, then an impact assessment would not be carried out, and in this case, an impact was not identified.”
Braid Ulster Unionist Cllr Alan Barr said he would “gladly” second the proposal by Ald Ashe and the recommendation was agreed by councillors.
Cllr Friary said that he did not agree.