UDR merger into RIR aimed to remove 'sectarian stigma'
THE British government’s decision in 1992 to merge the controversial Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) into the Royal Irish Rangers is highlighted among state papers released in Belfast.
In a memo to John MacGregor, Lord President of the Council in John Major’s Conservative government, the Defence Secretary (and former Secretary of State) Tom King stressed the importance of the move: "The aims of the merger are of great political and military importance to Northern Ireland.
"We are seeking to take the present UDR out of local and Anglo-Irish politics; remove its sectarian stigma and try to recruit more Catholics... and enhance the effectiveness of the local security forces in countering terrorism".
The merger of the UDR - formed in 1970 to replace the all-Protestant B Specials -was due to take place on the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on July 1 1992.
Mr King noted: "Failure to achieve this target would encourage local opposition".