Border UDR feels IRA has “seized military initiative”
Posted By: January 02, 2017
The views of the unionist community and the Ulster Defence Regiment along the border in the last years of the Troubles are captured in a detailed report of a visit to a UDR base in Co Fermanagh by an NIO official on December 14, 1989.
In a report for officials, Peter Bell of the security policy and operations division of the NIO described his visit to 4 UDR base in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, on the same day that two soldiers were killed by the IRA on the Fermanagh-Monaghan border.
He wrote: “In the shadow of yesterday’s murder at Derryadd, I attempted to justify the government’s security policy to the officers of 4 UDR.” His aim was to “reaffirm the British government’s total commitment to ending terrorism and the importance of continued security force attrition in achieving this goal… I also emphasized the need to enhance confidence in the security forces throughout the community and why terrorism should be eradicated under the rule of law”.
He added wryly: “More work to be done here, I fear.”
What struck the senior NIO man most after an hour and a half of discussion was that whatever about the security situation in Northern Ireland as a whole, “down in County Fermanagh the battalion (and the Protestant community they represent) are less sanguine. They see members of the security forces having to live further and further away from the border.
“They see too much of their effort consumed in self-protection and, in general, see PIRA as having seized the military initiative. There was the usual mock nonsense about sealing the border, putting politics into deep freeze until the IRA had been taken out… There the county and border are what matters”.
Bell informed colleagues: “One could not resist the impression that (among them) there was a struggle for the county. (The point was made several times that the population there was 50:50) and they believed that in their home ground the enemy is winning.”
Bell noted that in Fermanagh, three per cent of the Protestant population was in the UDR. This represented, he noted, “a significant chunk of the population of all social classes (which) is a UDR family for a variety of reasons from patriotism, on the one hand, to a useful supplementing income for a small farmer, on the other. In one sense, I was addressing the leaders of the Protestant community in arms”.