BATTLE LINES DRAWN OVER ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT
A leaked internal document by the head of British forces in the north
of Ireland, Lt Gen Philip Trousdell, suggesting that the disbandment of
the three Home Battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, previously the
Ulster Defence Regiment, is 'inevitable' has prompted a renewal of the
power struggle within the Ulster Unionist Party between party leader
David Trimble and hardliner Jeffrey Donaldson
The reduction of the RIR together with a proposal, codenamed Operation
Banner, to reduce the British army presence in the north to 5000
personnel, has provided the Trimble with the cover he needed to
unambiguously reject the recent Joint Declaration of the Irish and
British governments and thus to keep up with Donaldson in the battle to
lead the anti-Agreement faction within Unionism. He said that he would
not 'lift a finger' in respect of the Joint Declaration until the
British government provides him with an assurance that the RIR will
remain in its present form.
Since the news broke - and despite that the British government have
issued statements saying that the troop levels will not be cut until
so-called 'acts of completion' have been carried out by the IRA -
Trimble and Donaldson have been vying with each other to become the
champion of the regiment which Unionists have long regarded as an
integral element of their hold on power in the Six Counties.
To that end, Trimble has called an emergency meeting of the 108-member
of the UUP executive this Friday, whilst Donaldson has thrown his
weight behind a rival emergency meeting the 860-member ruling council.
Donaldson said that the proposal for the RIR was the 'final straw' will
be urging delegates to reject the Joint Declaration because 'that's the
only way to stop the disbandment of the Royal Irish Regiment."
Speaking on Tuesday at a press conference in Belfast,s Sinn Fein Chief
Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said demilitarisation was "a key
element" of the Good Friday Agreement.
"Five years on the British government have not delivered on their
obligations. It was therefore a crucial part of the recent negotiations
between Sinn Fein and the British government which led to the Joint
Sinn Fein's position had been consistent, the Mid-Ulster MP said.
seeking the removal from the Six Counties of all British Forces,
including the RIR, which he described as first nd foremost "a unionist
"Conflict resolution inevitably involves the removal of the RIR.
nationalists, victims of the UDR and RIR, will want to know why Mr
Trimble wants to retain this force. They are synonymous with
sectarian violence. Many members are also members of unionist
paramilitary gangs, up to their necks in collusion and the murder of
"Sinn Fein will oppose any moves by the British government to dilute
the Joint Declaration as part of a further exercise in pandering to
negative and rejectionist unionism."
WAR SEX CRIME
The RIR has enough difficulties at present apart from the prospect of
3000 redundancies. The commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Colonel
Tim Collins, is already the subject of two separate investigations, the
first concerning his alleged mistreatment of Iraqi civilians and the
second into his toleration of a 'culture of bullying' within the
Regiment which may have led to the suicide of teenage soldier, Paul
A further two investigations into the British Army's conduct in Iraq
have also become necessary in the light of fresh allegations being made
against soldiers. An 18-year-old member of the Royal Regiment of
Fusiliers, Gary Bartland from Dordon in Warwickshire, was arrested
earlier this week and is being detained at Colchester military prison
after he handed in photographs for development in Tamworth,
Staffordshire which appeared to show Iraqi prisoners of war being
The police were called in by an assistant in the processing centre
which developed Bartland's film who said that the images made her 'feel
sick'. According to some reports, the photographs showed a prisoner
tied up and suspended from forklift truck being operated by a British
Soldier. Other photographs are believed to show Iraqi prisoners being
forced under threat of violence to simulate sexual acts.
In addition, the deaths of two Iraqi prisoners of war are being
investigated by the British military authorities. At present, the
official line is that the deaths are 'not suspicious' and that a formal
investigation is simply a matter of procedure.