Northern Ireland news

Who were the Ulster Defence Regiment?

Formed in 1970, the UDR was viewed with suspicion by nationalists
Connla Young

THE Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was one of the most controversial units in the British army during the Troubles.

It was established in 1970 after the Hunt Report recommended that a locally recruited force be set up to replace the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) in the wake of widespread disorder the previous year.

Formed in 1920, in its early years the USC drew many of its members from the ranks of the pre-First World War One.

A USC unit known as the B-Specials was almost exclusively Protestant and viewed by many in the minority Catholic population as a quasi-paramilitary force which served as the strong arm of the Stormont regime.

After the formation of the UDR, many B-Specials transferred to the new regiment.

Initially it also attracted a sizeable number of Catholic recruits but as the Troubles escalated, many left.

From its earliest days the UDR was embroiled in controversy amid allegations of sectarian conduct and collusion by some members.

The activities of the notorious Glenanne Gang, which included members of the UDR, RUC and UVF, brought the regiment's links with loyalism into sharp focus.

The gang is believed to have been involved in the murder of dozens of Catholics in the mid-1970s.

Claims of collusion continued to persist throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Despite this British military chiefs continued to deploy the regiment to nationalist districts.

The UDR suffered heavily during the Troubles with almost 200 members killed between 1971 and 1992, the majority by republicans.

In July 1992 the regiment went out of existence when it was merged with the Royal Irish Rangers to form the Royal Irish Regiment, which was also viewed with suspicion by nationalists.

Today the defunct regiment is remembered fondly by unionists as a proud defensive unit but by many nationalists as a discredited sectarian force.

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