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Council row as proposal for UDR 'Greenfinch' memorial is agreed

A memorial statue to the UDR in Lisburn erected in 2011. A new proposal to create a 'lasting memorial' to female UDR members has been agreed by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

PLANS for a "lasting tribute" to women UDR members at a local council have been slammed as seeking to celebrate the "discredited" regiment.

Members of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council backed plans to commemorate the female UDR recruits, known as 'Greenfinches' to recognise the "significant" role they played in the "defeat of terrorism in Northern Ireland".

The motion by the UUP's Glenn Barr passed by 25 votes to 13, with SDLP and Sinn Féin councillors opposing it.

The proposal comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of legislation enabling women to join the controversial regiment, which has been linked to sectarian killings through collusion with loyalist paramilitaries and was disbanded in 1992.

In 2011 a motion to erect a statue of a Greenfinch and a male UDR colleague in Lisburn caused divisions among councillors.

Mr Barr's motion states the council "recognises the significant impact that the Greenfinches had in the defeat of terrorism in Northern Ireland", adding the local authority would "explore a lasting tribute to the Greenfinches".

Mr Burns highlighted the murder of four Greenfinches by the IRA during the Troubles, adding: "We owe these, and all the, ladies of the UDR a debt of gratitude."

Alliance councillor Brian Pope confirmed his party would support the motion in principle but sought assurances over "what form of tribute was being proposed".

"Once that is shaped and finalised, including details of the finance, an ultimate decision could be made," he said.

"We do recognise there are sensitivities around our past and so we wish to see this handled in a respectful way recognising the diverse views in our community."

However, Sinn Féin's Catherine Nelson criticised the motion, and said: "There is absolutely nothing to celebrate in a regiment that is so discredited that even the British government was forced to disband it."

The SDLP's Thomas O’Hanlon said: "There are well documented example in the media and before the courts of the organisation being infiltrated by loyalist paramilitaries and for that reason we cannot support the notice of motion."

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