The prince, the UDR and ‘failure of the few’

Posted By: January 28, 2015

By Liam Murphy .Andersonstown News ( Belfast).January 27, 2015

The Duke of York is in the news again with accusations of impropriety coming from
USA. A spokesman for Buckingham Palace has made a statement refuting the allegations
and assuring us of his innocence. That’s good enough for me, but I’m baffled as to
why the refutal has not been backed up by any Norn Iron politicians, given that
Prince Andrew has been here on many occasions and is Colonel-in-Chief of our own
Royal Irish Regiment.
On the other hand I might be wrong, because I remember that in June 1991 Defence
Secretary Tom King announced in the House of Commons that the Ulster Defence
Regiment was to be scrapped and the Royal Irish Regiment formed to link up with the
Royal Irish Rangers to serve mainly in the north of Ireland and also with one
battalion to serve overseas. Despite Prince Andrew being named as Colonel-in Chief,
some of our local politicians were not amused.
Peter Robinson, then deputy head of the DUP, declared: “Who is the Irish Regiment
going to defend? Only three per cent of the people of Ulster would allow themselves
to be called Irish. To call the province’s home grown regiment ‘Irish’ is a
throwback to pre-partition days. They feel that the sacrifice of the UDR has been
ignored and betrayed.”
DUP security spokesman William McCrea weighed in with a few choice comments. “As
with the Ulster Special Constabulary and the UDR, I am sure that we will see some
vocal opposition to the Royal Irish Regiment.”
Then he changed tack to demonstrate his loyalty: “I will do everything I can to
assist the new regiment and make sure it tackles terrorism, but you can be sure that
once it gets to grips with terrorists the same old propaganda will start. I just
hope they are prepared for it.”
He then admitted his fears that the regiment might start off as the UDR did, with a
sizeable number of Catholics before they were intimidated out. “Does anyone think
that Roman Catholics who join the RIR will be more acceptable than they were in the
UDR? I don’t think so.”
The Duke of York attended a service in St Anne’s Cathedral on June 1, 1992, just a
month before the UDR and the Royal Irish Rangers were merged into the Royal Irish
Regiment. Dr Eames paid tribute to the UDR members who lost their lives. He also
referred to the failure of the few. “I can testify to the disgust of the vast
majority when confronted by the failure of the few…”
Over 100 UDR members were jailed for serious crimes and at the time of the
disbandment 19 were in jail for murder. Probably the most notorious of these was the
Miami Showband Massacre on the road from Banbridge to Newry in which three band
members were shot dead and two of a five-man UVF gang killed when a bomb they were
placing in the minibus exploded. Their plan was to load the bomb in the back,
unbeknown to the Miami members, and to allow the band continue. When the bomb was to
explode the story would emerge that it had happened prematurely and that the band
were terrorists. Three of the UVF gang were members of the UDR. Thomas Crozier,
James McDowall and John Somerville were convicted of murder and given life
In May 1978 UDR man Robert Davis was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder
of 71-year-old Protestant farmer Samuel Millar. Davis had visited Millar’s farm to
persuade him to retract a statement he had made saying he had seen Davis and two
others change the number plate of a car shortly after a Post Office robbery in
Castledawson carried out by the South Derry UDA. When he refused, Davis hit him over
the head with an iron bar and then reversed his car over him. He buried the body on
the shores of Lough Neagh and was caught only after an accomplice made a confession.

The UDR came into existence on April Fools Day 1970 and was disbanded on July 1,
1992, the 76th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Over 2,000 members of the B
Specials joined and, surprisingly, 22 per cent of the force were Catholic in its
first year. By the time of its disbandment 97 per cent of its members were
Protestant. An average of 14 million man hours were clocked up each year and about
half the force, which numbered between 6,000 and 8,600, were part-timers.
On average four million cars were stopped each year. One of their favourite places
for road blocks was Glenshane Pass. In the days before Sunday opening a group of
Glengormley men headed off to Derry every Sunday morning. They spent the day just
across the border. One morning they were stopped on the Glenshane by a UDR patrol.
The driver, Mick Coogan, gave his licence and when asked where he was going to he
replied, “Derry.”
“You mean Londonderry.”
“No, Derry.”
Half an hour later the UDR man asked the front seat passenger where he was going.
Ken Craig, a native of Rathcoole, stated Derry. At half-hour intervals two back seat
passengers gave similar answers about their destination. After more than two hours
the fifth passenger, Paddy Healy, was questioned. “Where are you going?” Paddy
blurted out “S. S.Strabane.” They were on their way within minutes.
Two brothers, John and Gerry Edelston, were stopped at Glenshane on their way from
the Larne ferry to Gweedore, their mother’s native place. Her name was O’Doherty and
the brothers are known as Eoghan Hudaí. They gave their destination as Derry. “You
mean Londonderry? Where are you coming from?”
“Londonglasgow.” They reached Gweedore five hours later.
In the early 1980s a group of us were returning to Glengormley from a GAA tournament
in Armagh. We were stopped by the UDR on the Upper Hightown Road. On searching the
boot the soldiers found an O’Neills football in a kitbag. He inquired what it was.
When told it was a football he asked what kind of football. He seemed surprised to
learn that it was for kicking. He then asked for names and addresses. Then he came
back from his Land Rover and asked for occupations. He wrote them all down, plumber,
electrician, joiner, unemployed. When my turn came I told him I was a preceptor.
“What is a preceptor?”
“Um, well, a preceptor.”
“Spell that.”
It was nearly 7am when we reached Glengormley RUC barracks where we made a
complaint. The desk sergeant took copious notes and assured us he would get back to
us. We’re still waiting. Oh, for the days of the UDR. The RIR keep a low profile.
You wouldn’t know they were there. I have a hunch the Duke will be with us soon to
make some important presentations. They might change the name to the Royal Ulster
Regiment. In the post-Christmas depression that would give us all a lift and take
our minds off those silly stories coming from America. There’s nothing like a
handsome prince in military garb and beret, backed up by our local dignitaries.