Fortieth Anniversary of Disbanding of B-Specials and Formation of UDR

Private Members’ Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:45 pm on 24th May 2010.

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Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker 4:45 pm, 24th May 2010

The Business Committee has agreed to allow up to one hour and 30 minutes for the debate. The proposer of the motion will have 10 minutes in which to propose and 10 minutes in which to make a winding-up speech. All other Members who are called to speak will have five minutes.

I wish to inform Members that a valid petition of concern was presented today in relation to the motion. Under Standing Order 28, the vote cannot be taken until at least one day has passed. Therefore, the vote will be taken as the first item of business tomorrow morning, Tuesday 25 May. The motion can, however, be debated today. I remind Members that another effect of the petition is that the vote on the motion will be on a cross-community basis.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I beg to move

That this Assembly notes that April 2010 marked both the fortieth anniversary of the dissolution of the Ulster Special Constabulary, or B-Specials, and also the fortieth anniversary of the formation of the Ulster Defence Regiment; expresses its gratitude to the bravery of the many people who served in each; acknowledges the sacrifice made by many personnel as they defended the population against terrorism; and calls on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to mark these two important anniversaries.

Declan O’Loan’s new party must now be in operation given the cross-party marriage of SDLP and Sinn Féin Members in relation to the signing of the petition of concern. No doubt the SDLP leader will have some questions to ask Mr O’Loan about who will be the new leader of the party. That is not said to politicise, in any way, what this afternoon is about.

Many people want revisionism at the heart of the way in which we move forward and, unfortunately, they wish to airbrush from existence the gallant history of the men and women who served in the B-Specials and the UDR. That will not happen as long as members of my party are on this side of the House. Many people have stood between terrorism and the community. Among them were the members of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the UDR, whose brave service helped to hold the line against terrorism. The motion acknowledges their service and sacrifice. It is only right and proper that this opportunity be taken to applaud the way in which the community was defended from those who sought to murder by night.

A force of special constabulary was raised under the Special Constables (Ireland) Act 1832. Recruiting for the Ulster Special Constabulary opened on 1 November 1920, after a period of unrest and as the South descended into anarchy and chaos. Between 1920 and 1922, it is estimated that some 428 people were killed and a further 1,766 were wounded as the IRA sought to kill the Northern Ireland state at birth.

In 1922 alone, 232 people were killed and 1,000 wounded. Just as the IRA would again fail in latter times, so, too, did it fail in the 1920s.

When World War II broke out, a ready-made force of 13,000 men was available for Home Guard duties. That would later swell to 40,000 personnel. In the 1950s, the IRA reverted to carrying out a terrorist campaign. The Ulster Special Constabulary played an important role in responding to and defeating that terrorist campaign. It is interesting to note historical author Tim Pat Coogan’s description of the B-Specials as:

“the rock on which … the IRA … foundered.”

After that period, and until its dissolution, the Ulster Special Constabulary continued to give gallant and dedicated service to the Province. Regrettably, members of the Ulster Special Constabulary lost their lives in the line of duty. They were ordinary people who placed themselves to the fore in combating terrorism, and they deserve our thanks.

This year also marks the fortieth anniversary of the formation of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). It was formed in 1970 and incorporated some former members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. Its main purpose was to engage in guard and patrol duties in Northern Ireland, and it was a key component in resisting the extreme, cruel and bloodthirsty terrorist campaign that republican terrorists waged against the entire population. The depravity, cruelty and brutality of events such as Bloody Friday bear solemn testimony to the circumstances in which the UDR served this community, and served it bravely.

In the late 1980s, the UDR provided backup for the RUC across 85% of Northern Ireland. Since its formation, 40,000 people served in its ranks. It is estimated that the combined total of full-time and part-time members exceeded 60,000 personnel. Given the sheer number of people who served in the regiment, the extent of the reach of its duties and the prolonged period for which it was on active service, the UDR’s disciplinary record is nothing less than exemplary. By the time that it merged into the Royal Irish Regiment, 197 members and 47 former members had been murdered. The UDR was on active service longer than any regiment since the Napoleonic wars.

Whereas regular troops could usually be attacked only while on duty, members of the UDR lived and worked in the community. They were almost always attacked when at home, when at work or when unarmed. Today, we do well to remember those who lost their lives. Although it would be improper to pick out any individual, I recall one incident involving a serving member of the UDR who travelled to work with someone whom he thought was his colleague, but who was charged a few years later with his murder. How sad that we had a society in which that was not only something that happened but, unfortunately, was something that was supported. I trust that we will never again go back to that mentality. These were ordinary Ulstermen and Ulsterwomen who placed themselves in danger that we might live in peace. In the worst days of the Troubles, they became the target of terrorist organisations that we in this House might have a future.

Today, Sinn Féin sits in this regional Assembly in the UK. Today, it upholds the British criminal justice system. Today, it gives allegiance to, and, in many cases, is actively giving evidence to, a British police service. The republican movement has been forced to deal with decommissioning; it has been forced to announce the formal ending of its campaign; it has been forced to issue a formal stand-down order to all its personnel; and it has been forced to sign up to support the police, the courts and the rule of law.

In short, as Mr Molloy, a Member of this House, said in 1999:

“We are really prepared to administer British rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future. The very principle of partition is accepted, and if the unionists —

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin 5:00 pm, 24th May 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it correct for a Member to misquote another Member in the House? I ask the Member to withdraw that particular quote.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I have often said in the House that Members have to be careful when they are quoting other Members. Therefore, it is very important that if Members are being quoted, they are being quoted correctly.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

Mr Speaker, I am quite happy to provide you with the source of the quote.

I will complete the quote:

“The very principle of partition is accepted, and if unionists had had that in the 1920s they would have been laughing.”

The brave men and women of the UDR, through their service, gallantry and sacrifice, greatly helped to bring republicans to that place. They deserve our thanks, and I express my personal thanks to them in the House today.

Today, our Province is, to a large degree, at peace. Although the situation is not perfect, and though the institutions in the House are far from perfect, there is no longer the devastation and death that happened on a weekly basis when I was growing up.

As we seek to move Northern Ireland forward on that basis, we must never forget our past or the great price that was paid by so many to bring us to where we are today. As we reflect upon our past, there can be no greater contrast than that between the role of the various republican terrorist organisations on the one hand and the role of the forces of law and order, as epitomised by the members of the B-Specials, the UDR and other members of Her Majesty’s forces, on the other. The former had a clear political agenda, which was designed to destroy our Province, its economy, its way of life and its heritage. The latter had no political agenda; they only sought to stand between us and those who would destroy our lives and our property.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Will the Member bring his remarks to a close?

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

Republican terrorists deserve no praise or commendations; they deserve no memorials. However, those whom we commemorate in the motion do deserve our thanks and appreciation.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

It is right that, as far as possible, Members quote other Members correctly. However, it is not the Speaker’s job to sit in judgement about where Members get their information. Mr Molloy will have an opportunity to correct what has been said when he speaks in the debate.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

The previous Member ended his speech by telling republicans that they have no right to remember their dead and they have no right to remember those people who lost their lives in a conflict that was not of their making.

The motion is about many things. However, at its centre is the right of people to commemorate, in their own way, those to whom they felt close, those to whom they felt loyalty and those who had the same political views. So, it is difficult when someone gets up and makes a speech about the right to honour someone, only to tell others at the end of it that they have no right to do the same.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

It should not necessarily fall to this House to honour such people.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member has an extra minute.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

As I move through my speech, I will clarify my position on that. I will not be going cap in hand to the British Secretary of State asking for permission to commemorate anyone. If the unionist parties opposite are serious about commemorating those who served, fought and died as members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the B-Specials, they should be responsible for organising such commemorations, instead of seeking permission to do so from someone else.

The previous Member to speak, perhaps rightly, gave a one-sided version of the history of the B-Specials through to the UDR. All those organisations were formed for one reason and one reason only: to maintain the status quo in this state. The way in which they went about that created not only the conflicts of the 1920s that the Member spoke about but surely helped to create the intense conflict that we saw from 1969 through until we eventually reached where we are now.

The actions of the B-Specials bred a fear in the nationalist community. That not only drove many nationalists physically from their homes but many others left Ireland simply because the B-Specials ruled the community in which those people wanted to live. That was no way for any society to be built.

The Member moved on to discuss the creation of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Throughout his speech, he talked about terrorism and terror. I do not say this to be inflammatory, but many in my community, including myself, would have seen the Ulster Defence Regiment as a terrorist organisation. I am not saying that to provoke a reaction or to cause hurt to anyone. However, as was the case with the B-Specials, the actions of members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, whether they were in or out of uniform, caused fear among the broader nationalist and republican community. I do not think that that is a history on which this House can reflect in common purpose and be proud of.

The actions of those people did not help to end the conflict, as Mr Storey said. Rather, they helped to prolong the conflict. Members of the UDR, and their forefathers in the B-Specials, did not involve themselves in a campaign of security. I assure you that when a UDR patrol was seen in the communities that I represent, no one felt secure. When the UDR stopped you at the roadside, searched you, took your details, asked you where you worked, and were able to tell you everything about your life, it was not for your security. When that same information ended up in the hands of so-called loyalist paramilitaries, it was not for your security. When that same information was used to kill your neighbours, members of your family and members of the broader community, it was not for your security. That was terror in its classical form.

That did not bring us to peace. What brought us to peace was politics. We can rewrite our own versions of history, but we are on these Benches today because we decided to make politics work. I am glad that politics is working, because I do not want another generation to experience the life that we experienced. I do not want another generation to go off to join organisations such as the UDR or the RIR, and I do not want another generation to go off to join the IRA. I want the next generation in this society to make politics even stronger and to resist those who, whether through words or actions, choose to bring us back to the days of conflict. That is the way forward.

I want those who wish to remember to be able to do so in a dignified way, whether they are remembering the B-Specials or the UDR. However, I also want them to understand that we as republicans have a right to remember those who were dear to us. Those IRA volunteers and their families have a right to remember their loved ones in a dignified way. If we can have common cause in that, it would show a maturity about this society.

Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP

I thank and congratulate the Members who moved the motion. As a former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, I take great pride in having served in that regiment.

I want to deal with a couple of issues that Mr O’Dowd raised. There will never be any similarity between those who served in Her Majesty’s security forces to protect all communities in this Province and those terrorists who skulked about in the dark of the night or in the light of the day and murdered the citizens of this Province and the wider community. Indeed, they murdered not only the citizens of this Province but citizens of the Irish Republic and Great Britain. There can be no similarity between those two groups.

I want to dispel another myth about the B-Specials and quote directly from the Hunt report, which, at paragraph 3.16, states that the:

“USC were also used in Belfast to protect licensed premises which, being largely Catholic owned and managed, were at risk from Protestant hooligans when communal tension was high. Again, they did the job well — as is evidenced by the destruction of so many public houses as soon as they were withdrawn.”

That proves that the B-Specials were not sectarian. When I served in the UDR, I protected people from the nationalist and Roman Catholic community in the same way that I protected those from the Protestant and unionist community.

I recall nights when I guarded the homes of nationalist politicians in my constituency because of the threat against them; I did the same for unionist politicians. Mr O’Dowd referred to people being searched. That was absolutely right; I was searched by other members of the security forces, but I did not complain. Law-abiding people had absolutely nothing to fear. The difference was that, for decades, some people deliberately murdered others, bombed the Province and tried to destroy its citizens.

Fortunately, although many people lost their lives — our memory should be with them at this time — the terrorists were not able to bomb and murder the people of the Province into submission. The peaceful society that we have today is due in no small part to the B-Specials, the Ulster Defence Regiment and other security services. But for their actions, the Province could easily have slid into anarchy many years ago.

Mr Storey said that certain people may not have pulled the trigger to murder their neighbours who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment or the B-Specials, but if they did not, they set them up. That caused huge suspicion and mistrust among communities. When the Ulster Defence Regiment was first established, there was a huge attempt to recruit as many Roman Catholics as possible. The fact that that did not happen had nothing to do with the reasons behind the formation of the regiment. It was because those from the Roman Catholic tradition chose not to make it happen.

I served with Roman Catholic colleagues. One night, one of them went out on duty with one patrol and I went with another. That was the last time that I saw him: he was murdered that night. Another colleague with whom I served lived in a predominantly Roman Catholic housing estate. The people who lived there made his life a misery just because he wished to serve his community. I say shame on those who murdered their fellow citizens, even though they were of the same religion.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker 5:15 pm, 24th May 2010

The Member must bring his remarks to a close.

Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP

I say shame on those who made that soldier’s life a misery just because he was serving the community.

Photo of Dominic Bradley Dominic Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. From what we have heard today, we know that there are deep sensitivities around the motion for people on all sides of our community. Some unionist people watching the debate will have had family members who were in the UDR, and some will have had family members who were in the UDR and were murdered. There are probably Members who, as we have heard, were in the UDR, and, as Mr Elliott said, knew people who were murdered.

Likewise, nationalist people, as well as Members, have had family members murdered at the hands of UDR members, sometimes acting in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. I would like Members to be sensitive to both perceptions of the UDR. A sectarian slanging match across the Floor of the House will not serve well the memory of the dead. It is not what their families would want, nor is it to anyone’s benefit. The families want to know the truth about how their loved ones died and to have that truth acknowledged.

I do not seek to demonise everyone who was in the UDR, some of whom were neighbours who lived on the same street as me. It would be wrong of me to do that, but it would also be wrong to deny that some members of that regiment acted outside the law, sometimes in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

In my constituency, a group known as the Glenanne Gang, which comprised loyalist paramilitaries, members of the RUC and its Reserve, as well as members of the UDR, was responsible for at least 18 gun and bomb attacks in which 58 people were murdered. The group had its headquarters on a farm outside the village of Glenanne. One of the gang members, former RUC Sergeant John Weir, confessed to his part in those activities and exposed the gang members.

Weir was a member of the RUC’s special anti-terrorist group, the special patrol group. In his evidence, he named a loyalist paramilitary from Lurgan Robin Jackson and the late Robert McConnell among the members of the gang. He stated that Jackson and UDR member McConnell were responsible for the murder of republican John Francis Greene at Mullyash near Castleblayney.

The Dublin and Monaghan bombings were co-ordinated from the farm, and the explosives were stored there. Weir said that the explosives for both attacks had been provided by an intelligence officer in the UDR. The bombs were assembled at the farmhouse in Glenanne. The main organisers of both attacks had been a loyalist paramilitary and a named UDR captain from Lurgan. The bombs had been transported in cars by Robin Jackson and the UDR captain, both of whom took part in the Dublin attack.

The gang was also responsible for gun and bomb attacks in two pubs in Crossmaglen, after which one man died; the murder of two football supporters at Tullyvallen; and the attacks on Donnelly’s bar at Silverbridge and Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk, in which four people died and others were injured. Bomb attacks were also carried out in Castleblayney and at the Rock Bar in Keady, in which three people died.

UDR member the late Robert McConnell was the common element in most of those attacks, with the named UDR captain supplying the explosives in most cases. Gang members were also involved in the Miami Showband killings. Three of the Reavey brothers from Whitecross and three members of the O’Dowd family were also victims of the gang, as were RUC Sergeant James Campbell and Ahoghill grocer William Strathearn. Weir admitted complicity in the latter murder for which he was convicted and imprisoned.

RUC Sergeant John Weir has been accepted as a credible witness by Justice Henry Barron, who led the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and by the Historical Enquiries Team in Northern Ireland. The members of the UDR who were involved with the Glenanne Gang were not defending the population against terrorism: they were doing the opposite. They were terrorising the community. They acted outside the law in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries and brought death, injury and destruction to scores of innocent people. That is why the SDLP has lodged a petition of concern.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Bring your remarks to a close.

Photo of Dominic Bradley Dominic Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

That is why we oppose the motion. Go raibh míle maith agat.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

The issue is clearly sensitive, and I fear that the middle ground is very narrow indeed. The Alliance Party tried to table an amendment to suggest a positive alternative that might have had the potential to unite the House, but it was not taken forward. We must appreciate that history is rarely a black or white matter. There will always be interpretation and dispute around it. That is particularly the case in Northern Ireland.

We accept that there is a landmark anniversary in relation to the standing down of the Ulster Special Constabulary, or B-Specials, and the creation of the Ulster Defence Regiment, which later merged into the Royal Irish Regiment. The question is whether we should call on the Secretary of State to commemorate that. If we do, whether he would want to act on that is another matter.

As other Members said, there is scope for people in this society to have their own commemorations. However, we should look at how we can jointly commemorate our shared history. I may return to that point later.

The Alliance Party welcomes every opportunity to express its gratitude to and respect for those people who have served in the police and security forces, whether in the RUC, the PSNI or the Ulster Defence Regiment, to defend this society against terrorism, be it loyalist or republican, and those who have consistently acted in line with the values of the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Although I have critical comments to make about the B-Specials later, I accept what Mr Elliott said about the Hunt report’s reference to their protection of Catholic lives and property. It is also important that we recognise the significant loss of life among the B-Specials and the UDR.

That said, in trying to give a balanced reflection of the situation, it is only right that we acknowledge that there were abuses of power in policy and practice by the state — both the Stormont and direct rule regimes — during our history. Individuals acting with Crown authority also abused their power and authority in how they conducted their duty. There are documented examples of members of the Crown forces who acted in an illegal manner, were involved in some extremely serious crimes and had links to paramilitary organisations. That is all on record.

We must also reflect on the fact that different sections of our community have different perceptions and real experiences of the B-Specials and the UDR. In doing so, it is important that we draw distinctions between the B-Specials and the UDR. The context of the two organisations was different. The B-Specials were part of the RUC and controlled by the Stormont regime, and there was no balance in their membership. As Mr Elliott said, strong efforts were made to recruit Catholics to the UDR in the early 1970s, but those attempts were ultimately unsuccessful.

We must recognise that the B-Specials were drawn almost exclusively from the Protestant section of our society. That fact was borne out by a succession of reports; namely, the Scarman, Cameron and Hunt reports. The point was made that it was almost impossible for a Catholic to be a member of those organisations. Policing and security are at the heart of the conflict in Northern Ireland and Ireland. People from the Catholic tradition were regarded as being de facto subversives, which was a wrong assumption in many cases.

It is important to reflect on two themes that the Assembly should never forget. First, we have an ongoing challenge to deal with the past and the legacy of the past. We have still not come to terms with it, and, in some respects, we continue to push it away. Indeed, the new Government seem intent on doing that. We also have to reflect on how we build a shared future and produce a stable, free and prosperous society. We must take a balanced view of our history.

Photo of Thomas Buchanan Thomas Buchanan DUP

I support the motion, and I congratulate my colleagues Mr Storey and Lord Morrow for securing the debate in this important anniversary year. It is only right and proper that we have the opportunity to place on record our deep respect for the members of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment. They played a crucial part in the battle against the enemies of the Province at different stages in our history, and we in the House owe them a great debt of gratitude.

The republican propaganda machine worked hard to malign and misrepresent the USC and the UDR over the years, but it was only propaganda. Republican terrorists regarded members of those organisations as legitimate targets, and several hundred of their members were brutally murdered in cold blood. They were easy targets for the so-called brave volunteers of the IRA. Many were attacked when out of uniform and going about their ordinary civilian jobs, working on their farms or arriving home only to be gunned down in front of their family by bloodthirsty gangsters during a campaign that was supported by Members of the House.

A table in the book ‘Lost Lives’ shows responsibility for deaths, year by year, from 1966 to 2006, and it reveals that 2,152 murders were committed by various republican terrorist groupings in some of the most vicious circumstances, so I will take no lectures this evening from the Members opposite. Their attempts to discredit the B-Specials and the UDR will be treated with the contempt that they deserve. Republican accusations that these people were drawn from the Protestant riff-raff must also be strenuously rejected. Most unionist families, my own included, can speak with pride of family members who served in varying roles in the B-Specials and the UDR. I am proud to be able to say that members of my family served and still serve in Her Majesty’s forces.

The USC played a pivotal role at crucial moments in the history of Northern Ireland. Tribute has rightly been paid to its members’ public-spirited service and selfless devotion. Even the Hunt report, which recommended its disbandment, paid warm tribute to them. It said that, to a man, the special constables had devoted themselves to the cause of Ulster and that they had rendered gallant service.

When Northern Ireland was established in 1921, it faced an immediate and severe threat from its enemies, and we are eternally grateful for the contribution of the USC at that time. Not only did Northern Ireland survive then, but it is still here today as part of the United Kingdom, even though Barry McElduff, speaking on the radio last week, got very worked up about that particular issue. Mr McElduff may be in denial, but I remind him that he sits in the Northern Ireland Assembly within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where he now supports the police and the rule of law and the judicial system.

The B-men’s knowledge of local areas and local people was crucial at different stages in our history. They played a key part in the Home Guard during World War Two and in the defeat of the IRA campaign of 1956 to 1962. Then, in 1969, when militant republicans again attempted to destroy Northern Ireland, the B-Specials came to the rescue once more, only to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. The Hunt report, which recommended the scrapping of the Specials and the creation of an unarmed police service was naive and failed to face up to key realities. As Dr Paisley once said:

“if you want to destroy a country pull out the teeth of her defence forces and she will be easy prey.”

I have no doubt that the Troubles, which were the scourge of this Province for many years, would not have lasted as long as they did had the B-Specials been retained and not disbanded.

The B-Specials were disbanded in 1970 and replaced by the RUC Reserve and the UDR, and I want to pay tribute to them as well. They stood in the gap and were not found wanting. Many of their members were murdered, many more injured, and many carry the scars of physical and mental pain to the present day. Unfortunately, they too ceased to exist, but their bravery must not be forgotten. I share the regiment’s pride in the award of the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross by Her Majesty the Queen, and I call on the Secretary of State to begin his term of office on a sound basis by ensuring that the B-Specials and the UDR are properly remembered and celebrated in this fortieth anniversary year.

I close by quoting some words from a poem by John Potter, which is dedicated to the UDR:

“We did not serve because we hate

Nor bitterness our hearts dictate.

But we were they who must aspire

To quench the flame of terror’s fire.

As buglers sound and pipers play

The proud battalions march away.

Now may the weary violence cease

And let our country live in peace.”

Photo of Thomas Buchanan Thomas Buchanan DUP

I support the motion.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat. First, I refute completely the allegations made by Mr Storey at the beginning of his speech, even though he has left the Chamber. Misquotes and allegations are easily thrown about without standing over the facts.

I find it hard to believe that this backward-looking motion is before the House today. Some spoke of revisionism; this is real revisionism. I would have thought that even the DUP, at this stage, would have realised that it was largely the actions of these two paramilitary forces that led to the collapse of the six-county statelet. They were the real terrorists.

I welcome the fact that the B-Specials were disbanded. Everyone in the nationalist community rejoiced at that event. Unfortunately, many of them simply changed uniform and moved across to another organisation. They continued the harassment, the murder of nationalists and the collusion with others to ensure that loyalist paramilitaries had information to act on.

My early memories of the B-Specials are of being taken out of the car when I was very young, coming from midnight Mass at 1.00 am, by these men dressed in long black coats, brandishing guns and asking everyone their name and address. They asked my father for his name and address, even though the B-man was a next-door neighbour who knew him better than most —

Photo of Stephen Moutray Stephen Moutray DUP

He did not shoot him, did he?

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

— but that was part of the harassment.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

That was part of the harassment to put people in their place and to try to intimidate them.

For me, the Troubles began when the Tynan platoon of B-Specials, which I am sure Members sitting opposite would know well, shot John Gallagher on the Cathedral Road in Armagh. John Gallagher was a young man who was going home from his work and was walking through a peaceful civil rights march that was attacked by B-Specials, who shot John Gallagher. For me, that was the start of the Troubles because that was when the terrorists really opened up.

The B-men also opened fire on unarmed marches in Dungannon, Coalisland and across the North. The Protestant militia were at their dirty work, but this time, the croppies would not lie down; they continued to challenge. We then had the whitewash of Scarman, when it was found that the B-men were always carrying someone else’s gun, no one was accountable for anything, and no one admitted playing a part. These were the forces of the state, being paid by the state, allegedly to keep order. Even the British Government could not stand over their actions, and the B-Specials were disbanded, to the delight of the nationalist community once again.

After the battle of the Bogside, we saw —

Photo of Stephen Moutray Stephen Moutray DUP

[Interruption.]

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

After the battle of the Bogside, the B-Specials were completely humiliated by children on the top of the flats who beat them down with petrol bombs, stones, bricks and, on many occasions, their hands. The B-Specials had proved to be useless at anything in such a situation.

The disbandment of the B-Specials was welcome but short-lived, because many of them joined the UVF. I know that in the murder triangle, where I lived, most of them joined the UVF and became the paramilitary force that killed many Catholics in that area. Others joined the UDR. The UDR was supposed to be a regiment —

Photo of Stephen Moutray Stephen Moutray DUP

Others joined the IRA.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

I do not think that any of them joined the IRA.

Photo of Stephen Moutray Stephen Moutray DUP

[Interruption.]

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

Others joined another paramilitary force, the UDR, which was supposed to be a British Army regiment with accountability. What followed was collusion with loyalist murder gangs; bogus patrols, who shot two GAA men who were returning from an all-Ireland final, including a neighbour of mine, John Farmer; and the direct murder of Catholics who were shot when they came across them. That is what members of the nationalist community think about when they hear the name B-Specials or UDR; they think about murder and paramilitary connections. Those two organisations have a lot in common: both were Protestant, paramilitaries, murderers, and they were both disbanded, even by the British Government. Even the British Government could not stand over them. [Interruption.]

Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP

I thank the Member for giving way, Mr Speaker.

First, I resent the fact that the B-Specials and the UDR are being called paramilitary forces. That is absolutely unnecessary and not true. Secondly, will the Member accept the fact that I condemn people in any of those forces who broke the law? However, will he condemn members of terrorist organisations, such as the IRA, who skulked about at night, shot, murdered and blew up our citizens? Will he condemn them in the way in which I have condemned those in the security forces who broke the law?

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

First, to continue on the lines of what I had been saying: both those regiments had a lot in common. Both had to be disbanded by the British Army after they had been used and served their purpose as a cover for loyalist paramilitaries whom they worked alongside.

I will respond to Mr Elliott’s point: we are talking about people who were supposed to be the forces of law and order, the Government’s representatives on the ground, the people who were supposed to be protecting all citizens —

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

The Member will bring his remarks to a close.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

Mr Speaker, I think that I have an extra minute.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I warned Members about giving way close to the end of their time. Unfortunately, Mr Elliott ate into the Member’s extra time. When Members have the Floor and decide to give way, they must be aware of how much time they have left.

Photo of George Robinson George Robinson DUP

I support the motion, and I shall attempt to express my admiration of and thanks to the members of the B-Specials and the UDR for their role in protecting the entire population from those who desired civil unrest and planned to commit murder and destruction. The role they played, amid great sacrifice, has never been acknowledged properly. The B-Specials were part time and underpaid, apart from a small allowance for service and wear and tear on clothes. They were expected to do occasional duty, usually one evening per week, in their home area.

In 1997, in his most recent book, ‘Crisis and Decline: the Fate of the Southern Unionists’, the historian R B McDowell recalled childhood memories of those years:

“… one bright evening I stood at a window … I heard footsteps and saw a patrol of B Specials, decent, middle-aged men with police caps and armlets, carrying themselves with solemn determination. I felt reassured.”

Mr McDowell captured the perfect description of the typical B-Special: a decent middle-aged man.

A former B-Special told me that the work was often dull. However, the roll of honour for the entire Ulster Special Constabulary tells the story of just how dangerous the work really was. Between 1921 and 1970, 246 men lost their life while serving their community. In those 50 years of service, as Drew Nelson stated recently, they helped:

“the people of Northern Ireland in the defence of a democratic way of life.”

The B-Specials’ major advantage was that they knew who in their communities would be likely to associate themselves with terrorists. They had confidence in their local control over terrorists, and they were sure that the terrorists recognised and feared that knowledge. Sadly, in 1970, the Ulster Special Constabulary was disbanded and replaced by the UDR. The B-Specials had become a victim of lies, innuendo and political cowardice. As Dr Paisley said at the time:

“if you want to destroy a country pull out the teeth of her defence forces and she will be easy prey.”

Like the B-Specials, sadly, the UDR was also disbanded. Once again, local people, men and women who believed in defending their country, paid a heavy price in lives lost and injuries. Those are the facts and, with them in mind, the motion is correct to call on the Secretary of State to mark the two anniversaries. I join my colleagues in expressing gratitude to all those who served in the B-Specials, the UDR or any of the forces when terrorists wanted to destroy democracy and when they inflicted terrible wounds on our people and our wee country.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

I support the motion, and I commend those who proposed it. I stand proud of my 14 years of service in the Ulster Defence Regiment. I pay tribute to the brave men and women whom I had the honour to serve alongside, especially those who left their families, tragically, never to return home. As a community, we must never forget those who risked life and limb to keep this country safe and secure.

Last week, the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure reminded us that the next decade is strewn with anniversaries: the battle of the Somme, the Easter Rising, Ulster Day and the birth of Northern Ireland all have their 100th anniversary. Indeed, the Ulster Special Constabulary was formed in 1920 and, no doubt, there will be events to mark that milestone. Today, we call on the Secretary of State to mark the fortieth anniversary of the disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the formation of the UDR, both of which were recommendations in the Hunt report.

I agree with the proposers of the motion that we should mark these events. 1970 was a very troubled time in Northern Ireland. The fact that the Hunt Committee was formed at all was testament to that. Northern Ireland was not prepared for the campaign of murder that the IRA waged. The Hunt report was an attempt to make our civil defences fit for the purpose of keeping the peace.

The fact that such actions were required is an awful reflection of the situation that prevailed at the time. It will not be possible to get through the debate without making reference to the fact that some Members on the Benches opposite were probably sometimes a cause for the concern that required the UDR to be formed. Several Members have serious questions to answer relating to their activities — indeed, their active service — in proscribed organisations. Members of the UDR fell at the hands of evil men, and it is difficult for many to accept that certain people sit in the Government of this place, given what they have done. However, we have succeeded in forcing them to move on, and the UDR played its part fully in that process. We forced them into a position of knowing that their violence would not win and that it would not achieve their stated aims. We forced them to surrender their weapons, and we now have them making Northern Ireland work for its people. Today, Northern Ireland is a different place to what it was in 1970, and I am proud of the part that my party played in making that happen. I believe that it is right to mark the part that the UDR and the Ulster Special Constabulary before it played in that process.

We are entering a decade of anniversaries, and we are debating one of them today. We need a structured and joined-up approach to those anniversaries to ensure that the legacy of the sacrifice that was made in order to bring us peace is never forgotten. We can look back at the time and dedication that was devoted by so many men and women across our land who guarded key installations and provided comfort and support to families living in remote country areas. This was a land of unrest. Hopefully, we have moved forward to a new beginning in which all our people can live in peace and harmony. Those who served their country were not doing it for money. They did it because they loved the country in which they lived.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party 5:45 pm, 24th May 2010

In participating in the debate, I am mindful of the fact that 197 serving members of the UDR and 60 former members were murdered during the conflict. I am very much aware of the pain and suffering that is still experienced by their families. However, I do not know why the Members opposite expected this debate to be anything other than divisive.

Last week, Minister Nelson McCausland talked about how we must interrogate the past, prevent revisionism and get to the truth of what really happened. Therefore, I want to refer to the establishment of the Ulster Special Constabulary, otherwise known as the B-Specials. At a ministerial meeting in London in 1920, James Craig proposed a new volunteer constabulary for the Six Counties. He called for a force that should be raised from the local population and organised on military lines. Craig told the British Cabinet that the organisation of the UVF should be used for that purpose. Charles Wickham, chief of police for the North of Ireland, favoured incorporation of the UVF into regular military units. Wilfrid Spend, head of the Ulster Volunteer Force

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

OK. Spender encouraged his members to join, saying that there was no reason why the UVF should not furnish all the numbers required. West Belfast MP Joseph Devlin told the Commons:

“you are going to arm pogromists to murder the Catholics…we would not touch your Special Constabulary with a 40 foot barge pole”.

In a debate in the House of Commons on the Special Estimates, John Hume welcomed the disbandment of what was a purely sectarian force.

A special C1 division was created in 1921, specifically to take in groups of UVF members. Information provided by Assembly Research and Library Services notes a mother’s thanks to Eamon de Valera for the creation of and what she viewed as the necessity for the B-Specials, so that her sons would not be conscripted into the British Army. Therefore, joining the B-Specials was a way in which some people could avoid conscription.

Within months of their creation, the B-Specials were engaged in organised sectarian violence. In Roslea, members of the B-Specials — many of whom were former members of a vigilante gang organised by Basil Brooke — burned down Catholic houses. In June 1921, the B-Specials were involved in killings near Newry, but the worst atrocity happened in March 1922, when five members of the McMahon family were lined up and shot in their north Belfast home. A survivor testified:

“Four of the five men were dressed in the uniform of the RIC but, from their appearance, I know that they are Specials, not regular RIC.”

The following week, USC and RIC members were involved in six further killings in Belfast.

As Mr Molloy recalled, the final deployment of the B-Specials was in August 1969. When the Scarman tribunal examined the fatal shooting of John Gallagher and the wounding of two others at Shambles Corner, Armagh, on 14 August 1969, it found that there was no way that the tales told by witnesses from the B-Specials could be true.

Other Members’ contributions focused on the B-Specials and the UDR. It would be remiss of me, as a representative of Upper Bann, not to acknowledge that members of the UDR were killed. However, they were also complicit in and guilty of the murder of some of my constituents and the shooting of a former party colleague Gabriel O’Dowd, of whose murder members of the UDR were convicted.

Over the 40 years of conflict between 1966 and 2006, some 3,720 people died, the majority of whom were murdered by the IRA. I welcome the earlier comments of Mr John O’Dowd, but it is unfortunate that it has taken Sinn Féin so long to recognise what the SDLP has always said, which is that politics brought about peace. Over the years, John Hume, Gerry Fitt, Paddy Devlin and their successors in the SDLP made that argument. It is shameful that so many people were murdered before Sinn Féin discovered it to be true.

Photo of Gerry Adams Gerry Adams Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. If I may, I will ignore the remarks of the previous Member who spoke. I have no problem with Members celebrating the UDR or the B-Specials, but I oppose the motion, because it is inappropriate for them to do so in the Chamber.

The B-Specials were an armed wing of the old unionist regime at Stormont. However, I am also conscious that members, former members and relatives of the RUC, B-Specials and the UDR were killed by republicans. I am mindful of the hurt involved and want to be measured in what I say. Everyone should regret the fact that anyone was killed, and I certainly do. At the same time, there is no avoiding the shameful record of the B-Specials force or the fact that it had to be disbanded by the British Government. The UDR has a similar history, and it was also scrapped.

The British Government of the day made no bones about the purpose of those organisations. They armed unionists to defend the union and partition, and they equipped them with all the weapons of coercion, sectarianism and terrorism. That was also the case with the UDR. Perhaps Members should reflect on the fact that, when the British establishment felt the need to protect its mainstream regiments, it recruited more expendable, indigenous people to do its work and founded the UDR as part of its Ulsterisation strategy.

I understand why some people joined those organisations, and I do not doubt that many of them, such as Mr Elliott and Mr Savage, may have behaved bravely in the conduct of their duties. However, it is my strong view that those organisations and their members were used by sinister elements in the political and military elites here for their own narrow ends, and, when they had served their purpose, the British Government simply got rid of them.

Those who tabled the motion must have known that it would not get the support of other parties. They must have known that there would be the divisive type of discussion that we have had. So, what is the purpose? What is the objective? How do today’s debate and the offensive remarks of some of the Members opposite fit into the effort to unite parties here in the urgent work of delivering for people on a range of pressing social and economic issues and building a more inclusive and prosperous future for everyone?

Even a brief glimpse at the history of the UDR or the Specials would satisfy all but the most jaundiced eyes that those forces were entirely subversive. The history of the UDR, in particular, is replete with accounts of its involvement directly in the murder of Catholics and indirectly in the murder of hundreds more through collusion with death squads. In addition, British agents such as Brian Nelson helped to procure weapons through the old apartheid regime in South Africa. Those weapons were secured for the use of three unionist paramilitary organisations: the UDA, the UVF and Ulster Resistance, which was founded by leading members of the Democratic Unionist Party. In the six years following the arrival of the arms shipment from South Africa, 229 citizens were murdered by unionist paramilitaries. In many cases, files and photos of nationalists and republicans were passed over to the death squads, frequently from within the UDR.

As part of the necessary process of peace building and understanding, I appeal very respectfully to the Members opposite to reflect on what has been said from these Benches. I appeal to them to resist the temptation to put forward divisive motions such as this one and to commit themselves to building peacefully and democratically for the future.

Photo of Allan Bresland Allan Bresland DUP

It is not only a privilege but a pleasure for me to rise to my feet to pay a heartfelt tribute to the gallant members of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment in this important anniversary year. Northern Ireland has come to a place of peace, but the road has been a long and rocky one. A high price has been paid to bring us to where we are today.

As we reflect on the journey along that rocky road, all of us in the House will have our heroes and our villains. There are those in the House whose open hatred of the B-Specials and the UDR is well known. No one argues that those organisations were perfect — there are bad apples in virtually every organisation — but they have been condemned by those who are in no position to judge. Indeed, words such as “pots”, “kettles” and “black” spring to my mind. Despite what republican propaganda might say, the vast majority of the B-Specials and the UDR were decent and hard-working members of society. To me and to thousands of others across the Province, the memory of the B-Specials and the UDR is warmly revered. Along with the RUC and the Army, they stood between us and those who wished to destroy us and our way of life. Most of us on this side of the Chamber have strong ties with the Specials and the UDR. Many of our family members were proud to wear the uniform.

Today, Northern Ireland’s position in the UK is stronger than ever, and we look forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland in 2021. Those who served in the B-Specials and the UDR played a major part in the preservation of the union. From the setting-up of Northern Ireland in 1921 until the force’s disbandment in 1970, the B-Specials were the key to Ulster’s survival. The Hunt report states that, during the early days of Northern Ireland, the Specials bore a heavy responsibility for the preservation of law and order in the Province.

I am not old enough to remember those days, but I do remember how the peace and prosperity of the Province was shattered in the late 1960s, when those who hated the very existence of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom rose up in open rebellion. At that dangerous time, the Government relied heavily on the B-Specials. But for the B-Specials, who knows what might have happened? However, as we have seen too often in our Province, the B-Specials were sacrificed to appease those who would never be satisfied and would always demand more. I echo the words of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1970. He said to members of the USC:

“You have done magnificently. Ulster owes you an immense debt”.

It was not long before those who replaced the USC, namely the UDR and the RUC Reserve, became the targets of verbal and physical attacks from republicans.

As I return my attention to the UDR, I speak from the heart and from personal experience. It was my privilege to serve as a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment for 15 years. Some were not happy with that. Republican terrorists tried to murder me in May 1981, but I survived, and, with the grace of God, I am here today to see my children and my grandchildren. The same cannot be said for hundreds of my UDR colleagues who were sent to an early grave by the enemies of the Province and left behind loved ones who will carry the burden of their loss to their own graves. The memory of the gallantry of the members of the UDR and their successors in the Royal Irish Regiment must never be forgotten.

I join my colleagues in urging the new Secretary of State to ensure that the fortieth anniversary of the disbandment of the USC and the creation of the UDR is marked in a way that brings honour to those two gallant organisations. I support the motion.

Photo of Stephen Moutray Stephen Moutray DUP 6:00 pm, 24th May 2010

I count it as a privilege to take part in the debate and to acknowledge the sacrifice that was made by members of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the UDR in the many years that they defended this country from terrorists.

On 8 June 1920, IRA terrorists planned an attack in Lisbellaw in County Fermanagh. The target was to be the courthouse in the village, which, some time before, had been stripped of its Royal Irish Constabulary complement. Information about the impending attack came into the hands of the local population, and they took it upon themselves to defend the village. The 50 or so IRA raiders were taken completely by surprise when the bells of the parish church rang out as an alarm, and several were wounded in the fighting that ensued.

As a direct result of that and other attacks, a new defence force was formed later that year, known as the Ulster Special Constabulary. I am very proud that my grandfather was one of those who was involved in the defence of Lisbellaw on that night in June 1920. Subsequently, he and my late father went on to join the B-Specials. That organisation was made up of men who gave up their time, usually one evening a week, unpaid, to defend their country from subversion and outside aggression. From the outset, the recruitment of Roman Catholics was discouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Sinn Féin. Indeed, the IRA targeted for assassination Roman Catholics who did join. There is nothing new there then.

Sir Arthur Hezlet wrote in his book, ‘The “B” Specials: A History of the Ulster Special Constabulary’:

“Special constables had an almost immediate effect, and police reports from as early as December 1920 show a decrease in outrages”.

The Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan stated in his book, ‘The IRA’:

“The B-Specials were the rock on which any mass movement by the IRA in the North inevitably foundered.”

That shows their effectiveness.

Sinn Féin and others tried at every turn to blacken the image of the Ulster Special Constabulary. They sought to distort every incident and to stir up hatred of the force, even from before it started to function. However, to the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland, the B-Specials, like the UDR, stood for law and order against rebellion and anarchy. Today, 40 years after their standing down, we acknowledge their commitment, thank them for their sacrifice and praise Almighty God for the men of the Ulster Special Constabulary, who served gallantly in a time of need. I support the motion.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

I had not planned to speak in the debate. However, as I listened to it upstairs and heard various comments from both sides of the House, I became quite infuriated. This is a very noble motion, but all that it is doing is giving the other side the chance to rip apart, blacken and damage the forces. I felt it necessary to come down to the Chamber, because I have a problem with this noble motion being used so that the two sides, which are now working together, can attack each other. I find that very odd.

I agree with my colleague that those who served did so for the whole community and they were not terrorists. There may well have been one or two who let the side down, but certainly nothing like all those numbers who are being blackened at the moment. This should be a chance to remember those who served and to thank them for serving and for risking their lives, especially those who paid the ultimate price of being maimed or killed.

I served in west Belfast, and I saw myself as one who was serving the whole community. However, I had an advantage. When I left, I went back to my base in England and went on to other things, and I could put it behind me. Those who served here could not do that. They were at risk every second, minute and hour of their day. Last year, we saw something similar happen to poor Constable Heffron. They were constantly at risk.

In my previous job, I once went to a house near Dungannon. The person there had a photograph of himself in uniform displayed inside the front door, and I asked him whether that was wise. He took me out into the car park and pointed at 14 houses, and he said that one son or two sons from each of those houses had been murdered. He carried on until he had been through all the houses. Then he took me upstairs to his bedroom where, along the wall above his bed, was a line of bullet holes. He was lucky; he heard them coming up the stairs, and he rolled out.

It is sad that we are here bickering about people who should be treated as heroes. That is extremely wrong. They fought a fight, and, yes, one or two individuals did things that were wrong and for which they should be condemned, but that fight allowed us to have the politics that has led us to peace today. We should be allowed to mark these occasions, and we should ask the Secretary of State to mark them. It would be right for Members not to rise when they are challenged by the other side. Let us remember the individuals for all that they did.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. As I stand to speak, I am aware that there are sensitivities in the Chamber and outside of it, and, inevitably, this debate has reflected those sensitivities. Since we are coming to this debate from differing sides and perspectives, it is also inevitable that there will be no agreement on the motion. I sincerely hope that Members will agree on one thing: it was as utterly wrong and reprehensible, not merely regrettable, that members of the UDR or any of those regiments were murdered or maimed as it was for any members of those regiments to have engaged in paramilitary collusion and to have been involved in murdering or bombing.

I engage in the debate, therefore, with some reluctance. That said, I am not reluctant to oppose the motion. Mr Storey was here earlier, and he talked about moving the North forward. It is somewhat disappointing, but not surprising, that the Assembly is debating this motion at a time of utter financial crisis across Europe and at a time when our Executive are attempting to negotiate the extent of cuts to be imposed from Westminster and when public meetings are being held in protest at the cuts that are being made to the Health Service in our rural areas. I attended one of those meetings at the weekend in Magherafelt in my constituency. Perhaps the only surprise is that the party opposite neglected to mention Craig and the 1913 version of the Ulster Volunteer Force in this historically inclined motion, as my colleague Dolores Kelly pointed out.

Our society is divided by many things, not least by our differing views of the past, as has been reflected here this evening. There is no doubt that the proposers of the motion are sincere in their views, and we have heard that heartfelt sincerity expressed here this evening. However, many others, me included, do not hold the named organisations in quite the same regard as they do, and we have also heard the reasons for that this evening.

Let us not forget that the Governments of the day removed both organisations from the streets for very good reasons. That is why the SDLP sought a cross-community vote on the motion. If we are to start making real progress towards building a better future for all our people, one of the issues that we must resolve is a reconciliation of our shared past. It is a failure of the Assembly and the Executive that we have not even been able to attempt to agree a way forward to deal with that past. The only attempt to do so, flawed although it may have been, has been abandoned, and the new Government in Westminster seem unwilling to make any alternative proposals.

We will not resolve our different views of the past in the Chamber today, and, based on the motion, we will certainly not come anywhere near doing so. In fact, the debate has probably exacerbated the situation somewhat. Not for the first time, some Members may think that they can reconcile views, but they are mistaken in that perception. Any attempt to airbrush our shared history, as the motion does, is entirely counterproductive. It is as counterproductive as some Members’ pretence that they were not there at that time. Therefore, based on the perception of difference and on the inability to arrive at agreement on what should be a shared history, I oppose the motion.

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I support the motion. It is a noble and honourable motion that respects those who served the entire community without fear or favour in a noble and honourable way. Their service required heroism and courage, and it required people putting themselves at risk for others, as we have heard today, and to sacrifice their tomorrow so that we could have our today. We wanted to see a stable Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, where the rule of law is practised and upheld.

There is no doubt that history will record the service of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment as being key elements in the business of delivering a stable Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, where the rule of law is paramount. Those organisations were forced to face the most violent and evil terrorism, and it ill behoves anyone to point the finger at the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment, when those who make the accusations ordered the murder of a single mother of 10: a widow who was taken out, tortured and then murdered. It was they who planted devices inside the corpses of those whom they murdered, in contravention of every aspect of warfare and the Geneva conventions. That terrorism was there to inspire fear, to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and to remove Northern Ireland’s democratic freedoms.

Thankfully, as has been rightfully pointed out, members of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment did not do what they did for financial reward, or to have their names written in lights. Soldiers and greenfinches in the UDR were prepared to give of themselves to provide the stable Northern Ireland that we enjoy, and it is to them that we owe a great debt of gratitude.

I will conclude by saying that I am the proud grandson of a grandfather whom I never knew, because he passed away long before I was born. However, he served as a commandant for the Ulster Special Constabulary in Tyrone. The service of such men and women cannot be airbrushed from history.

This is a positive motion. I am fully committed to taking Northern Ireland forward, but I must recognise the service of members of my family. Brothers of mine such as Freddie Starrett and James Cummings were prepared to sacrifice their tomorrow for my tomorrow, our tomorrow, this House’s tomorrow, and for democracy in Northern Ireland. We owe them greatly.

Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP 6:15 pm, 24th May 2010

I have listened with interest to what Members have said in the debate. I am amazed at what some people can conjure up, some of the words that they can use and some of the actions that they seem to justify. I listened to the Sinn Féin/SDLP pan-nationalist front take a strident approach to the motion. On the one hand, those Members tell us that they are sincere. Indeed, Mr McGlone said that it was with reluctance that he took part in the debate. I look, however, at the petition of concern and I see Mr McGlone’s signature, proud and in bold print. Mr McGlone had already taken part in the debate long before it reached the Chamber. Therefore, I am not sure that his crocodile tears suit in this instance.

Had the SDLP and Sinn Féin been sincere, would it not have been much better for them to have shown some backbone and resolution by tabling an amendment or a motion that they thought could secure support from right around the House. That was not to be. Instead, they used the blunt instrument of a petition of concern to jettison the motion that stands in my name and in that of my colleague Mr Storey. The motion is a genuine attempt to recognise the services of people who have gone before us.

Although I should comment on much of what has been said in the debate, to comment on everything would be nigh on impossible within 10 minutes. I will, however, digress from the speech that I had prepared to comment on what Gerry Adams had to say. In his usual belligerent manner, Gerry Adams stated that, in fact, the USC and the UDR were just forces of a unionist Government. I know the howls of protest that come from that quarter when Gerry Adams is reminded that the IRA was just the wing, the cutting edge, of Sinn Féin. There are all sorts of protestations that, in fact, the two had nothing to do with each other. It just so happens, by chance, that a number of those who sit on the Benches opposite have records of which they should not be proud.

I want to put on record my profound respect for and gratitude to the Ulster Special Constabulary and its successor, the UDR. I can also stand here and say that I was a member of the Ulster Special Constabulary. I have no apology to make for that, nor did I ever have intent or murder in my heart when I went out on cold wintery nights. That was not in my make-up at all.

May 2010 marked a significant anniversary for the forces of law and order in Northern Ireland. It was the fortieth anniversary of both the disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the formation of the UDR. In my book, both of those forces of the Crown stand tall and proud in the annals of history in Northern Ireland. Some of us are not prepared to allow that anniversary to pass by or their heroism or, indeed, their memory to be airbrushed from those annals.

The Ulster Special Constabulary was made up of ordinary men and women who wanted to serve their country. Their role was vital in the protection of people and property, in counter-insurgency, and in helping the noble RUC, as it was then, to deal with terrorism. Those who stood against terrorists are to be commended for their selflessness in the face of republican brutality. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

The shameful treatment that those heroes and heroines received from the Government in efforts to placate republicans is to be deplored. They were stood down on the alter of political expediency. They were vilified for their sterling work and painted as wrong-doers simply for upholding law and order. It is remarkable that a force of such integrity should be pushed to one side to facilitate militant republicanism, the real intent and goal of which has been discovered and made manifest over the past 35 years.

During the 40 years since the Ulster Special Constabulary was disbanded in 1970, some 3,600 people lost their lives. That is a powerful statement in itself. We are left to pick up the pieces and to wonder how many lives might have been saved had a reckless Government not made those treacherous and dreadful decisions. Similarly, many were cut down in their efforts to maintain civil society or while protecting others. They paid the supreme sacrifice for upholding law and order, but their memories live on forever.

After the USC was disbanded, the UDR was formed. I pay tribute to that regiment of gallant men and women who, through the worst period of our history, stood between sanity and insanity. Regrettably, many were called to pay the supreme sacrifice, and graveyards across the Province pay tribute to the real heroes. Visit practically any graveyard in any border town in particular and one will see the poignant gravestones that tell us a very sad story of how some of the finest of this country were taken out by ruthless thugs.

Those individuals were not afforded high-scale pay or anything like that; that was not why they found themselves in the forces; they did not go in to earn lots of money. They enlisted with a sense of duty and purpose to bring some sanity and to protect their homes and the homes of the whole community — and I mean the whole community. I know that there are those who are reluctant to accept that and those who have it in their minds that the B-Specials were some sort of terror organisation because of the propaganda machine that was in full flight at that time. Therefore, many of the facts have got lost in the myths and hypocrisy that have been trotted out, particularly by the republican movement.

The republican movement slaughtered the innocent and it took mothers from their children and left orphans behind, and, yet, sadly, the SDLP feels comfortable aligning itself with the petition of concern lodged today. Would it not have been better for the SDLP to state its own position clearly and to divorce itself completely from Sinn Féin, whose hands are anything but clean? The SDLP has missed a trick. Its members should have been man — or woman — enough to say to Sinn Féin that the SDLP is not prepared to join with it because of its past and its support for an organisation that was deemed the most ruthless in the western world. Today, however, the SDLP clasped hands with that party to vote down a legitimate motion.

Mr Storey warned us that he will not stand by and see the memory of those two organisations being airbrushed from history, and he is to be commended on that. John O’Dowd deliberately painted a picture that bore little resemblance to reality. Tom Elliott spoke as an experienced UDR soldier; he testified first-hand that he had protected not only the Protestant community but the Catholic community along a porous, difficult and dangerous border.

I commend Tom Buchanan, who made a superb speech today. Allan Bresland stands today as a survivor who is to be commended for his courage and determination. He does not come across as a bitter man; he comes across as a caring man, because he recognises that, but for the grace of God, his life would have been taken. Why? Simply because he was a serving UDR soldier.

I could comment on others who made useful contributions. George Savage spoke eloquently of his admiration for the UDR and the USC, as did George Robinson, Mr Bell and Mr Moutray. I thank all those who spoke in defence of the motion, and I commend it to the House.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

I remind Members that a valid petition of concern has been presented in relation to the motion. Therefore, the vote will be taken as the first item of business tomorrow morning.

Adjourned at 6.25 pm.