Meath Peace Group Talks
No. 60 – “The Legacy of War – Experiences of UDR Families”
Monday, 10th April, 2006
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
(Conflict Trauma Resource Centre, Belfast)
(Former UDR members)
Roy Garland (Irish News columnist,
member of UUC, Co-chair, Guild of Uriel)
Welcome: John Clancy
Opening words: Roy Garland: ‘Drawing a Line under the Past’
Martin Snoddon: ‘Experiences of UDR families’
Questions and comments: panel:
Martin Snoddon, Rosemary McCullough
and Teena Patrick
Appendix: The Unionist Group – ‘Drawing a Line under the Past’ (March 2006)
Welcome and introduction: John Clancy: “You are all very welcome here tonight. This is the 60th public talk held by the Meath Peace Group and it also happens to be the 8th anniversary to the day of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. If you were at our last meeting, a fortnight ago (MPG talk 59, 27th March), and also seeing what happened recently in Donegal [murder of Denis Donaldson], there is so much more work to be done, there really is. Chairing our talk tonight is a man who has been working at this coalface with his good wife Marion for many years. Roy and Marion Garland are two amazing people. Together they are great enablers. An enabler is somebody who allows people to be empowered to do things and doesn’t seek recognition for what they do. Roy has been working away quietly for many years, never seeking recognition or reward, and he has earned great respect among all who have come to know him. If we hadn’t had people like Roy and Marion over the last number of years, I don’t know where we would be ….So I will now hand you over to Roy, we are very honoured that he has taken the time to be with this. ”
Opening words –
Chair: Roy Garland: “Thank you very much, John. It’s lovely to be here. Those fine words are nice as well but they are not true. But that is beside the point, it is really nice to be here, I always enjoy being down here. In fact, it was probably about sixteen or so years ago, that I set out on a journey. The journey was part of a bigger journey, but this particular part was about sixteen years ago, when I discovered that my family came originally from Co. Meath and Co. Louth but had more recently come from Co. Monaghan and in Monaghan they were a leading Orange family and in Co. Meath they were a leading Catholic family. So I discovered the Monaghan connection. I actually went down and the family is still there, believe it or not, and my family left about 200 years ago. It was a wonderful experience coming from the Shankill Road in Belfast, some people say the heart of loyalism….But I came down and found…in fact I have got part of Monaghan up in Co. Down believe it or not! You can go up and see it. It is set there. It is a building. You can go into it, look around it and it is the Hand & Pen Orange Hall from Co. Monaghan, the whole lot, all the bricks, the whole lot. It’s up in Co. Down in Cultra in the Ulster Folk Museum. ..
Guild of Uriel: “In the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, I heard about a place called Killincoole. And there is an old ruin of a castle, or a Norman tower houses, and it was reputedly built by the Garland (or Gernon) family. And I went down there and met a man called Alphie Reilly, who is now in a nursing home in Castlebellingham, and Alphie took me all around Co. Louth, Co. Meath, all around the place, and it was a really wonderful experience. And out of that we came to know the Meath Peace Group and we also started a group called the Guild of Uriel in which over the last ten years or so, we have been having meetings with people from all backgrounds, a very, very positive, really positive experience. The meetings are dynamic and there is something live about it. They tend to be all private, just people sharing their stories. And I found that I never ever have got tired of hearing those stories and participating and working together. And people come from all backgrounds: working class, loyalist backgrounds, nationalist backgrounds, republicans, unionists, you name it.
Unionists: “Anyhow that is how I got here and there is something about here, I think, for unionists. I am a unionist, I am a member of the Ulster Unionist party. There is something about the rest of Ireland that I think is part of my heritage as well. Some unionists don’t like me to say that but that is the truth, and I don’t think in a sense you are fulfilled unless that is there. It doesn’t say anything about whether your allegiance is to Britain or Ireland or whatever but it is part of what I am.
“Most of the work we have been doing has been very private and quiet within the Ulster Unionist Party as well. One of the things I did do which was not so quiet, was to come down here to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in Dublin in 1995. I got into a lot of trouble up home because it was against party policy, and I remember I actually shook hands with Pat Doherty [Sinn Fein] who welcomed me down here as a fellow Ulsterman from Co. Donegal. The photograph was brought out at my branch meeting and I was in big trouble, but I survived all that.
Drawing a Line under the Past: “Now Julitta asked me to say something … about a document that we issued recently – ‘Drawing a Line under the Past’.A number of us recently decided to put together a document based on some of the work that we have been doing. Julitta and I in particular have been working at this, I’d say for the last ten years, with these groups coming together and sharing our stories. We [in the unionist group] have taken that idea up and put it together and come up with a document on what we saw as the way forward in terms of drawing a line under the past. In actual fact, we were asked to do it by the Northern Secretary of State. What we did was we talked to republicans, loyalists, Alliance Party, SDLP, and then we talked to Dermot Ahern [Minister for Foreign Affairs] and then I thought: ‘Why is it we can talk to everybody but the ministers that are supposed to represent us?’ So we asked for a meeting and lo and behold the door opened and we had a meeting and he said ‘do a paper for us’. It was just something to say on drawing a line under the past. So we came up with this and it is basically some of the work that Julitta and I have been doing, this sort of private consultation where people tell their stories and relate to each other and respond to each other and we have suggested that this is the way forward. I needn’t go into the detail. The thing that annoyed some people was that at the start of it I said – and this is absolutely true – this group came together after meeting with a [republican ex-prisoners] group called Coiste na …
Martin Snoddon: “Coiste na n-Iarchimi.”
Roy Garland: “Coiste na n-Iarchimi, there you are. Talk to another loyalist and you’ll find out how to speak Irish! We talked to them and we also talked down here to all the other groups, but it was the fact that we put Coiste na n-Iarchimi in there, that we got into some trouble with some unionists. But apart from that it is the idea, that if you want healing, you have got to share. And in our view, a truth commission – that was looking at facts, it is not dealing with relationships. We are not saying there is not a place for looking at facts, but if you want healing, you talk to each other and you share with each other and you get to know each other. And I was nearly going to say you get to love each other and in a sense that is right, in the truest sense of love, that is respecting and honouring each other and that is where we come from. I have only got two copies. If anybody particularly wants them I have two here, you are welcome to have them. But that is the basic idea and there are one or two other ideas in there about I mean maybe getting some academics from a nationalist community and a unionist community to actually look at the main features of the conflict that come up with an attempt to understand just the main features, because I believe if you get into too much further than that, you just get into argument, because there is no agreement. So Julitta asked me to say that, so I have said that. [editor’s note: the text of Drawing a Line under the Past is included as an appendix at the end of this report]
Tonight’s talk: “Some time ago, I met Martin Snoddon. I have actually known the name for a very, very long time. Martin comes from Donegall Pass. I come from the Shankill, but the name was floating around among loyalists in the area. He was always highly regarded. I am a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, I never met Martin until one day I was invited to a conference held by the Progressive Unionist Party, and funny enough, I am just thinking now the topic was “Truth and Reconciliation’ wasn’t it? The PUP, the Progressive Unionist Party, was issuing a document on how to draw a line under the past, how to deal with the victims, how to deal with the hurts. They were basically saying there are great problems in our community. The hurts are so great, it is very, very difficult to move on that. So I was standing at the back I don’t think I’d ever met him before, I was talking to Martin and I was telling him some of the work that I was doing and Martin was telling me of some of the work that he was doing.
Conflict Trauma Resource Centre: “Now Martin is involved in the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre which is based in the centre of Belfast and the work that they do is healing work so in a sense it is the same sort of work that we are trying to do. But it is for people with particular trauma. It is not just unionists, it is not just loyalists, it is not just nationalists, it is not just republicans, it is not just security force people. It is everybody – those who are suffering trauma. And it is a place where healing is sought and which is also trying to facilitate and help those who are in need.
Ulster Defence Regiment: “There are lots of victims’ groups who need help to present their case and so on. The particular group that I was interested in was ex-members of the security forces, and particularly the Ulster Defence Regiment. Now the Ulster Defence Regiment, I think in many people’s minds, it was what replaced the B-Specials and some of the probably unfair criticism of the B-Specials was transferred to the Ulster Defence Regiment. But the Ulster Defence Regiment started off with about 25% Catholics and it was an attempt to actually produce a security force at that level, that was cross-community. Many people suffered and suffered greviously out of that, particularly Catholic members of the UDR because it started in the very early ‘70s and communities were in turmoil and people were being shot and UDR men were having to move from one place to another and take their families with them and went through some horrific experiences. There were around 200-300 UDR members killed. But one of the most startling statistics that I heard, I think it was from Martin first, was that where almost 300 UDR men were killed, only 8 people were killed by the UDR. We know there were problems with some people doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing within the UDR, but that says an awful lot. …300 of them were killed and they were sort of like in a sense our scapegoats out there defending their community and doing their bit for the community and suffering at everybody’s hands. And at the end the powers-that-be in a sense tended to wash their hands of it whereas the police, the RUC, were getting some compensation, pension rights and all that sort of thing. My understanding was the UDR got next-to-nothing or very little. The facilities weren’t provided. I have read some stuff by psychiatrists who work with people suffering post-traumatic stress ….in the British Army. You were supposed to go up and get on with it and forget it. You’re knocked down, you get up again and go on, and nothing was provided …. But I don’t want to get into it too much. I’m doing the talk for you Martin.
Martin Snoddon: “I am enjoying listening to it!”
Roy Garland: “I feel that it is very important that we are here today and we have people representing that particular aspect of community …. Actually for a time I worked on the Falls Road and one of the fellows that I work with – he was in another part of the building, he was a UDR man – and I was coming up one day and there was a commotion. He was shot dead, just like that. He was a porter in the hospital and where I lived on the Shankill a few streets away a republican came up Lanark Way so easy. I mean it is just literally around the corner. We lived cheek by jowl and it was easy for a loyalist to kill a republican or a Catholic or vice versa and terrible things happened and I think to some extent the UDR represents the victims. I am going to hand you over now to Martin. I know there are a couple of Greenfinches here also, if you know what Greenfinches are – they are not birds. But they are female members of the UDR who went out on patrol with the men on the streets and did car checks and protected buildings and that sort of thing. So I am going to hand over to Martin. Thank you very much Martin.”
1. Martin Snoddon (Director, Conflict Trauma Resource Centre, Belfast): “Thank you Roy. Can I say first of all that the two Greenfinches are going to join me at the end of this presentation, so they will be available for some questions. …
“The Legacy of War – experiences of UDR families’(CTRC Report, 2006) [illustrated talk]
Background to research: “Now, we are talking this week about it being an anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the Belfast Agreement. This research actually started five years after that agreement had been signed, after thousands of man-hours had been put in to many community groups around Belfast, around Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland and so on. Yet with all that, there was little heard of any research that had been done with former members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, with respect to their needs as a legacy of the conflict. CTRC (Conflict Trauma Resource Centre) had some dialogue with regards to that over a number of years, and Teena Patrick is a colleague of mine at the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre. She sits as a member of the Board of Trustees and we decided that we needed to rectify this. We needed to bring people in, so that their voice can be heard, because we were very conscious that they were suffering in silence. So we decided to engage in this area of work. We started off thinking in terms of ‘lets get a bit of a group together of people who had that experience during the years of violent conflict as an advisory group in order to be able to move this on’, and to do it in an empowering way, so that people were left at the end of the research with much more than a document that was detailing a lot of their traumatic experience as a result of violence. But to build a capacity, or to start the building of a capacity, which was going to allow people to operate in that concept of self-help to address their needs.
“Because the reality was everybody else was ignoring those needs: from the British Government who employed, encouraged and sanctioned the operations of the Ulster Defence Regiment – not one of the people that I engaged with in that research had a kind word to say or even in fact had anything to say with regards to support received from the government after service.
UDR statistics: “So that is a little bit about the background, just adding on to what Roy had said earlier. So service in the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, that is a photograph that dates back to the early ‘70s whenever the regiment was first coming into existence [slide]. Let’s have a look at some of the statistics with regard to the existence of the regiment, with reference to the legacy of the conflict itself [slide]. It became operational in 1970, with a strength of 2,440 men. 946 of these men were actually Catholic. The strength of the regiment rose to 10,000 in 1972. Some would say that was at the height of the violence in Northern Ireland. Women became part of the service in August of 1973, and we are fortunate tonight to have two of those women with us, two former members of the Greenfinches. The reality is that approximately 58,000 men and women served in the regiment between 1970 and 1992, 58,000 men and women.
Casualties: “197 UDR soldiers were killed between 1970 and 1992. A further 61 ex-soldiers were killed after they had left the regiment. We have got to bear in mind that the majority of those killed were killed off duty, not in uniform, but perhaps going shopping with their loved ones who witnessed that destruction. 5 others who had transferred to the Royal Irish Regiment after the merger were killed. There have been thousands of visible and invisible wounds linked to service in the UDR.
Families: “Let’s not forget the family members that stand beside those servant soldiers. It is estimated that immediate family members of UDR soldiers over the years would number 250,000. Very few of them have received any form of support – 250,000 a very significant figure with regard to the statistics of Northern Ireland!
Summary of themes emerging from research:“As the research progressed, a number of themes started to emerge with regards to what people’s experiences had been [slide]. These ranged from security, employment, welfare, financial and psychological support, family impact, social interaction, memories, and of course acknowledgement and recognition for sacrifice and service.
Security concerns: “Security is the first theme. Personal protection weapons were called in at the end of service. These people were reporting that that left them more vulnerable to attack. People had to go about hiding their identity, for example, when they were visiting the Royal Victoria Hospital, there were experiences there of people being attacked in the hospital grounds. …..
Present day: “In the present day 2006, people are still operating with a heightened sense of alertness and consciousness. For them the war isn’t over. They are still hyper-vigilant with regards to everything that is going on around them. Children had been conditioned, grandchildren are currently conditioned. Things that had been practised in the home at the time of the violence, for example switching the light on before pulling the curtains or opening the door before asking who was there. Things changed in those families, where people had to force their children to stand behind the door and ask who was there, to make sure the curtains were pulled and even some people were recounting that their children helped them search underneath their car before they got in to drive it away. Children were being conditioned with regard to the legacy of the service.
“The peace process, thoughts around the peace process included the impact of former terrorists serving in government, the impact that that had on those people who served the state. The demonisation that was taking place with regards to the UDR. The threats that were still in existence, sorry that are still in existence, the threats themselves haven’t gone away, and dealing with the past.
Employment, education and training: “Thoughts around the employment theme included that no training programmes existed in the past ….. Basically they came out, they had their uniform taken off them, they had their personal protection weapon removed and they were told to get up the street. Children were being denied training opportunities due to safety issues around government training centres. People in the South Down area were fearful of their children going to Newry for employment training. They thought that it might compromise their safety or indeed endanger the lives of the children. Education and training for those who suffered PTSD or STSD – Post-traumatic Stress disorder or Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder – there had been no training for people to actually address those wounds. ‘No-go areas’ still existed, indeed they still exist today. People are fearful of going through certain areas, because of their past experience in the UDR.
Welfare support: “With regards to the financial side of welfare support, there is an absence of a safe and neutral place for advice on benefits, so people are denied state benefits, because they can’t go somewhere and be honest about their involvement in the UDR, those years that they serve. The UDR Benevolent Fund: there were issues around assessments being made by them with regards to past members. Pensions for part-time service members were a big issue: we are talking about some people who had served 25 years as a part-time soldier and were denied any form of financial assistance after that period. There was limited knowledge on what is available and how to actually access support.
Small business concerns: “Addressing the impact on small business concerns was also an issue for some people. Those people who had been entrepreneurial and started up their own businesses, some experienced boycotts because they were members of the UDR. Their businesses suffered, their families suffered, they had no support with regard to that.
Hearing loss: “There were also questions of hearing loss compensation which has also been a big thing in the south for regular army soldiers.
Absence of emotional and psychological support: “With regard to emotional and psychological support, none actually existed, no emotional, psychological, spiritual support offered at times of great stress, none whatsoever. Example: experiencing violent incidents and a loss of a comrade, there wasn’t even anger management then or now for all of those horrific experiences that were encountered while in service or indeed after service, no support of that description. There was no emotional, psychological or spiritual support offered to ex-service members and some of them were still wakening up with intrusive thoughts, bad memories, nightmares, still being experienced, for some people many years after service. The concerns were that these buried thoughts may one day erupt.
“Cultural barriers to seeking support need to be overcome. The stiff upper lip men don’t cry, macho nature means it is difficult to communicate with the spouse and they can’t talk to outsiders. They are expected to still be those soldiers that aren’t human. They are denied human emotion, human experience because they were in uniform.
Impact on the family: “Children couldn’t sleep at night until the parent was safely home, unknown to the parent. But their children – 6,7,8 years old – were lying awake, fearful until they heard the door closing in the early hours of the morning. They were conditioned to protect the parent. They were told to tell lies about where mommy or daddy was, were they worked etc. They were encouraged in that vigilance, that safety about the home. I already mentioned about the blinds and answering the door. The house became that mini-fort, that unnatural home environment. Children and family members also witnessed the violent attacks on their loved ones and they have had to bear that loss over the years without much support. Again there has been an absence of any long-term support. None, really none, has emanated from the British Government, not a penny.
Social interaction: “In relation to social interaction, there’s been no communication, information to ex-personnel from a central unit. As soon as they did take the uniform off, that was it. They haven’t had any contact or any information from anyone still within the forces or within the government or within the statutory sector or the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland. No one has reached out to see where they are. They have restricted places to socialise, it’s not everywhere you can go, even within their own community. No safe place to talk about experiences. Limited contact with other ex-service members so, as the days went past after leaving the regiment, they became increasingly isolated.
Marginalisation and demonisation: The community perception, local and wider demonisation, that is what believe. They have been marginalised and demonised, not simply in the times of violent conflict, but largely during the peace process itself.
Memories: “Concerns exist about how the UDR will be portrayed in history, the memories of their murdered comrades, memories of witnessing violent attacks or violent incidents, memories of experiencing abusive behaviour, memories of comradeship and pride at times of service. And also lost memories: stories that have never been told and are still yet to be told.
Acknowledgment and recognition: “In relation to acknowledgement and recognition, there is an absence of a societal appreciation of the sacrifice made by members of the UDR as they went about trying to keep the peace. An absence of recognition by the regiment of former members, so people are challenging the Royal Irish Regiment with regard to the service that they had in the Ulster Defence Regiment. It is not being recognised anywhere within or without the government services.
“A failure of those responsible for long-service medals to deliver these awards earned by former members. The medals are sitting in some box somewhere. People haven’t even had them delivered to them after many years of service and potentially sacrificing their lives or some of their family member’s lives during the course of that service.
Commemoration services: “Commemoration/remembrance services by the regiment need to be more sensitive to the needs of surviving family and former comrades and friends.
Inventing the future: “People have been very, very honest during the course of this research. They haven’t missed anyone and hit the wall. They have had a hard, sometimes bitter, experience resulting from the legacy of violent conflict. The research itself wasn’t simply about recording the experiences. It was about looking at those experiences and looking at ways in which they can be addressed in some way to increase the quality of people’s lives, so we explored inventing the future for former members. People thought that they needed a supported self-help solution to the legacy. A structure of a self-help group might look like that, a management committee, a service coordinator, a welfare officer, a counsellor, two support workers for outreach work and a research assistant, not a huge amount of money to cover the needs of something like a quarter of a million people.
Mental illness among ex-servicemen: “An article in the Sunday Telegraph magazine on 10 December 2005 reported that there had been 256 British troops killed during the Falklands War. 500 veterans committed suicide since the Falklands War. The 24 killed during the first Gulf War; 119 veterans committed suicide since. … The army’s head of psychiatry says that the number of mentally ill will rise in the months and years after war due partly to the unique pressures of peace-keeping. There is no record. No one has even thought about keeping a record on how many members of the UDR committed suicide or died in some way since service. Lee Skelton, the medical director for Combat Stress, says: ‘it can take on average 14 years for an ex-soldier to be diagnosed. … They sit on symptoms, resorting to negative coping strategies such as drinking, denial, isolation and drug dependency.’
“We have that in Northern Ireland. The Professor of War Psychiatry at King’s College London who works for the MOD, says: ‘research shows that the National Health Service does not provide adequate care for former soldiers.’
Conclusion: “The Legacy of War records former UDR soldiers who echoed this experience. They couldn’t get the service that they needed through the National Health Service. In February 18 2006, none of the ex-UDR participants protested while serving in the army. As former soldiers, they still carry a sense of pride though they do object to being ignored when they are seeking support or when they are not seeking support.
Self-help service: “The question arises: will you help or hinder a progressive self-help service designed to alleviate the needs of men, women and families associated with service in the UDR and bearing in mind we are talking about a quarter of a million people? The possibility of those needs being addressed is minimal at this time. Small groups together working towards addressing the needs, they need all the help that they can get. Thank you very much.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS [summary]
[Editor’s note: For this part of the discussion, Martin and Roy were joined at the top table by Rosemary McCullough and Teena Patrick, former members of the UDR. Note: female members of the UDR are known as ‘Greenfinches’]
Roy Garland: “We are going to open the meeting for questions to Teena and Rosemary. Both Tina and Rosemary have had experience on the ground and you might want to know what it is like on the ground and so on. But we are throwing the meeting up to questions either to Martin orto Tina or to Rosemary, so feel free.
Q.1. Canon John Clarke, Navan (member of Meath Peace Group committee): “Thank you. Generally, within most groups or organisations where something is lacking you get people providing for themselves, I don’t mean that in a cold sense but something develops and grows out of it, support groups and so on. So was it not possible within the structure amongst yourselves – you know your needs best of all – to set up your own support mechanisms.
Teena Patrick (former Greenfinch): “Well that is why we have set up this group because there was no support mechanism for us. In the early days we would have had the army camps as a safe place to meet. But the army camps have been closed so there is no safe place to meet for ex-service personnel to meet. Unless you join an association – and when you join an association there is drink involved with that and you’ve seen the statistics there, that people are either in denial or they turn to drink to solve their problem and we don’t want that.”
Martin Snoddon: “The reality was that…what I gathered during the research was that after service, when people became civilians, they kept themselves to themselves. There was nowhere other than those social clubs to go to and they were much more about that familiar side of socialising that happens in the north and the south over a few beers etc, etc. But there wasn’t the opportunity to really be honest about their experiences. So there was an absence, a complete absence of a group within this particular constituency to address their own needs. There were some other victims’ groups around that were doing very, very good work, but they were wider in relation to the conflict. They weren’t focused simply on the UDR experience.
Combat Stress: “If I could just give you an example. For instance, while doing the research a few members of the group needed psychological help and weren’t aware that Combat Stress could help them. Now whenever you leave the Ulster Defence Regiment, you are not given any information whatsoever if you need the assistance of certain departments. You’re not given that information – of where to go to seek help. Now unfortunately, Combat Stress have only three employees that cover the whole of Ireland, North and South. So they are very underfunded and they deal with all regiments, nor just the UDR. Their services, for instance if you need specialised services, you have got to seek those services in Scotland, England or Wales, they don’t have the centre here in Ireland to deliver those services.
Q.2. Nuala McGuinness (member of Guild of Uriel): “…. I have a few questions for Martin. I’m from Co. Down originally and in 1970 I was working as a psychiatric social worker …. I just want to ask were there many admissions to mental hospitals among the soldiers?
Martin Snoddon: “Well the reality was there was no record being kept, there was no interest being shown with regards to the experiences, so there was nowhere that we could go to, to source that type of information… There were some people that did have experience with regards to those institutions. There is no question about that. But they weren’t going in saying ‘I am a UDR man’ or ‘I am a UDR woman’. They were going in very much concealing that identity, which made it much more troublesome to actually appreciate the life experience that someone had to address those invisible wounds or visible at that particular point in time.
Nuala: “Following on from that, now at the present time, is there much evidence of behaviour and school problems with children of these families?”
Martin Snoddon: “It depends how you are going to classify being disturbed. There is evidence that young people are not going to go into areas. There is evidence that young people from those families have a huge seething resentment with regard to the British forces and how they have been treated. So there is a danger there, where that can actually lead young people. I spoke to young people along the border corridor whose parents were members of the security forces and they swore that if things erupted again, that they would never join the state forces. They would join the paramilitary groups, because that is where they felt that they would get support after.”
Nuala: “But I suppose in their ordinary, everyday lives they wouldn’t perform great at school?
Martin Snoddon: “There is a young man that participated in this research as a 15- year old boy, he cradled his dad, his father, in his arms when his father had been shot dead in their front hall. He never went back to school afterwards. No one from the school ever called to his house to find out why. He was left just completely out of the education loop. He has a huge burden to bear with regards to all of that experience. His mother went to the UDR very shortly afterwards and asked for some support. She was completely embarrassed by what little was offered and she never, ever went back.”
Nuala: “Were therea lot of marriage break-ups?
Martin Snoddon: “There have been a lot of family difficulties resulting from the time of the UDR experience and also in relation to the legacy of the UDR experience. There are a number of people who are currently receiving treatment in the group therapy mode up around Antrim and it is amazing that more of those marriages didn’t break up. A lot of them have survived, but there have also been families that have been casualties of the experience.”
Nuala: “Just two more points ever so quickly. Your community would identify with the British identity and I can understand this ….. But is there a crisis of identity among your folk in that the British government let you down and didn’t look after you and still as a community or as a people you don’t identify with the 26 counties. You know there is a chasm there. Has this affected people?”
Martin Snoddon: “What I would say is that people’s identity remains intact, who they are remains intact. …In relation to the Protestant people of the North and the reality that that identity remains intact is very real. They have been hugely disappointed by the British government’s actions but they still believe that they are British and they will remain British. They have been hugely disappointed by the Irish Government’s actions over the years, but some would still say they are Irish and there is not a difficulty in relation to a tension between being Irish and being British for people in the North.”
Teena Patrick: “I think it really is down to the person themselves and certainly the Catholics that I served with would see themselves as serving as a British soldier as part of the Ulster Defence Regiment. And I can only speak for myself: when I joined the UDR, I joined to serve all of my community both Protestant and Catholic…. [tape break]
Nuala: “900 Catholics joined the UDR. If I was in the UDR I would feel that was a very respectable number to get at that time. It was very positive and encouraging at the time ….”
Teena: “…. Unfortunately the first UDR man shot was a Catholic on Springfield Road, and from my own experience I can only say that the talk within the company that I served with, from the Catholics that I served with, was that there was a lot of intimidation of Catholic members of the Ulster Defence Regiment.
Roy Garland: “Martin referred to ‘seething resentment’. I assume that was in the loyalist community against the government or whatever, was it? Or was that in general?”
Martin Snoddon: “ …people on the border wouldn’t necessarily classify themselves as being loyalist. They would classify themselves as being more unionist, so I would say within that unionist community, they had normally been very much married to law and order, but if the same type of problem was to arise today, the dangers are that they would gravitate towards forces other than the state forces.”
Roy Garland: “Martin referred to a young boy of 15. I have heard the story. His father was in the house and they came to the door and of course he didn’t know immediately who it was. The kids were upstairs, it was a long hall and if the father went to the hall, he was worried about the kids coming down the stairs and being shot. So he couldn’t stay because the kids might come down the stairs. So he decided to go out though he knew he was putting himself in danger. And he was shot dead and the 15- year old son took him in his arms and he says after it, I think this says something:
‘After the murder I didn’t go out much. My first day back at school, people seemed to be talking about me, behaving differently towards me. I didn’t go back. I am not aware of anyone from the school calling or writing to see why I wasn’t there. I sat no examinations and received no qualifications’.
“Then he goes on out of that to talk about how he meets these three fellas, hats on, coats up high, this sort of thing, and they asked him to join the paramilitary group. Now his father had warned him … and he never joined, but it is quite graphic the story and I think some of it is in here [Legacy of War report] – the young fella and how it affected him when he goes back to school. He feels that he is being observed, that he is being treated differently, he doesn’t do anything. Nobody seems to care and he just has to make out for himself. John you had a question?”
Q. 3. John Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “Good evening everyone, and thank you indeed. What we have heard, it makes me reflect on the issue of the one UDR man and the five on average that are supporting him behind. Could you just take us through because I am trying to get a feel of this? …You left your family, that kind of thing. Did you patrol every night and what was done for the family? Was the family put in the barracks? I just get the feeling, and I think I got it before that … if you as a UDR officer went out on patrol you were safe, because you were with guys or girls and you were armed?”
Teena Patrick: “The women weren’t armed.”
John Clancy: “The UDR men were, but the family weren’t?
John Clancy: “Was that always an issue that you had to deal with every time you went out?”
Rosemary McCullough: “For a start off, there was no barracks to go home to. That would have been the British Army who went back to barracks. After we had completed our night’s duty we had to go back to our own homes. So for the Greenfinches especially, we didn’t have any personal protection weapons, so after you completed your duty say from 8 o’clock at night to 5 in the morning, you then went home. You had to take a different route home every night. You had to always be constantly aware of any cars that were following you, or cars that were sitting with people in it. Then when you got to your home, you had to be very, very conscious of anybody who would be hanging around. So you eventually got into your house. Then it was a case of checking that everything was alright at the back of the house. But maybe you would be sitting for an hour watching out your window, to make sure that nobody else came before you would even go to bed. So there wasn’t a safe barracks to go home to. Then you had to get up the next day and go and do your normal job, so you were driving through areas that maybe the night before you had actually patrolled. You were scared of running into maybe someone you had stopped the night before, to sort of ask for their identification. So you didn’t have the safety of having the barracks around you like the regular army did. …Or the men who had their own personal weapons to protect them. You lived and you breathed that war 24 hours a day 7 days a week.”
Martin Snoddon: “A lot of people did actually report that the safest time was when they were in uniform.”
Rosemary: “Yes when we were out on duty.”
Martin Snoddon: “They were fearful of their family members, that they felt that they were at their safest place in uniform, on duty.”
Rosemary: “I actually had set up with my family, who were quite young at the time and my mother would have came up and stayed the night with my children when I was out in duty. And I said: ‘look, always always leave the bathroom light on and if the bathroom light is turned off I know something has happened.’ So you always had pre-arranged something. Even if the children were staying in my mother’s house, I would say ‘well look make sure that you leave a light on and if there is a light on I know that everything is alright’, but if the house is in darkness, which would basically what the terrorists would want, they would want the house in darkness, then I know that if I drive up, the house is in darkness, something is wrong. I will not go near the house. I would then phone for some sort of back up.’
Q.4. Judith Hamill (Meath Peace Group): “How many days a week were you out or was it every two weeks or what?”
Rosemary: “Well I actually worked in the Company office 5 days a week and I went out on duty 3 nights a week. So you worked in the Company office from 9 to 4.30. You went home, got the children fed, got your little bit of housework done, maybe were back down again at the barracks for about 7 or 7.30. Some nights you would have got home at 2 in the morning, some nights 3am, some mornings 5, depending on what the operational duties were.”
Q.5: “Did people know before joining what they were going into?”
Teena: “I didn’t. We were only supposed to be a peacekeeping force. We were supposed to be on the edges, but we were drawn into it. …We were supposed to be guarding installations like electricity, water supplies, but unfortunately the conflict became greater and we were drawn into the centre of it. My main duties would have been at Grand Central Hotel in the city centre, cordons around the city centre in the early days. Where Rosemary was in the Company office, I would have been out on the streets searching at those locations, then coming home, going out on an evening shift. They were all classed as one duty. My first wage for one day was £3.49, not an hour, one day.
Rosemary: “….So if you actually started work at say 8 in the morning and you worked to 4 and then you came back on again at 7o’clock and you worked to 12, that was regarded as one duty. You got one day’s pay for that. The army owned you 23 hours and 59 minutes, so you are only allowed a minute of your own time. If they needed you for that time, you had to stay and you got one day’s pay which was like £3.”
Teena: “So anybody who joined in the early days, I mean they weren’t joining it for the money. They were joining it … to secure their communities.”
Q.6: “… I am almost totally ignorant of what the UDR stand for, because our understanding where I came from, although I came from both sides, well my father would have been British and my mother very nationalist, so I was very confused growing up and probably more confused now. But I would say that our understanding growing up was that you were a subversive organisation. It was my understanding anyway and I think it was the general sort of thing, so we would have very little knowledge you know, and it is very interesting to hear you and that you in actual fact suffered as well ….. It is interesting in that way.
“I’ll finish by saying: I just wonder is there a danger in you compounding the sense of grievance that the UDR might have, in that, by not sort of accepting that what has happened is not unique to the UDR but that is all a consequence of war generally and that you wouldn’t sort of make people feel more grieved than they need to be? I don’t think that is going to be helpful really. I am sure that is not your intention. I wonder is that a danger?”
Teena: “I’d just like to reply to that. It’s not my intention. What I want to do is get the story out there because I feel it has been unheard and we haven’t had recognition for the job that we have done. And there are no statistics of how many lives we have saved, how many businesses are still going, because we were out there on the streets and you know if I can be prepared to sit in a room and listen to the stories of ex-paramilitaries on both sides, I feel that I should have my voice heard.”
Roy Garland: “It is important to clarify the difference between the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Ulster Defence Association. The Ulster Defence Association is an illegal organisation and there is a wee bit of confusion between those two. The Ulster Defence Regiment was a regiment of the British Army. It was actually started that way in order to overcome some of the allegations over the B-specials who were seen as under unionist control. So the UDR was put under the British control and it was reckoned that would make it more neutral. Now there are some people would say that doesn’t make it more neutral. But the way the whole thing worked and the attacks on the UDR made it seem less neutral.
“But if you bear in mind the number of UDR men who died and the number of people who they killed. I mean nobody wants to see anybody dead. But it does say something that so many UDR men died and others didn’t. There is a man over here who would like to speak. …”
Q.7. Fr Pat Raleigh (Dalgan Park): “I’m from the community here. Just listening to you there, a couple of things. Are your lives in danger now? Can you move freely around bearing in mind what you have said? Do you feel a sense of bitterness within yourselves towards the lack of acceptance of what you were trying to do and how would the Catholics who would have joined the UDR, would they have been ostracized by their own community as well?”
Rosemary: “Well, the first part of the question: I don’t feel any way bitter. Ok, I do feel a bit grieved the way we have been treated by the British Government and the Northern Ireland Office, but I don’t feel bitter because I took a great sense of pride in the time that I served and that pride overshadows any bitterness I feel.”
Teena: “I would feel the same and I have recently spoken to a Catholic member that I served with, he would say that, yes, he was intimidated and ostracized from his community but he doesn’t have any bitterness with regard to that. Rosemary, maybe you’d like to speak a bit further on that because you were speaking recently with him?”
Rosemary: “Yes he was a member that we both served with for quite some time. It was actually him, his brother and his sister and they all joined the UDR away in the very, very early seventies when Roman Catholics were actually joining the regiment then. Within about a year of him joining, the whole family, mother, father, the lot all had to move house out of the area they lived, because they were being intimidated by some of their nationalist neighbours. They continued to serve within the UDR and were a very respected part of the UDR. As far as the Protestant members of the UDR were concerned, they were just another soldier, the same as ourselves. We didn’t try to make any difference between Catholics and Protestants. We were all out on the streets doing the same job. We were all putting our lives at risk and it didn’t matter whether they were Chinese, Black, Roman Catholic or whatever. We just seen them as a comrade and they were treated as that. I have since spoken to that gentleman. He actually moved out of the UDR and went to what was the old RUC, which is now PSNI. He is still, believe it or not, having to move house. He has just recently moved and I think that is about the 5th move, because he says as soon as some nationalists find out where he has moved to, the intimidation starts again.”
Roy Garland: “It was pretty horrific for a Catholic.”
Rosemary: “It was.”
Roy Garland: “I mean I know Catholic members and there was also some distrust among some loyalists, or unionists, or whatever you would like to call them, of some Catholics. You were in no-man’s land if you were a Catholic and you were joining because it was a new beginning. Here was the UDR, it represented the whole community and you are trying to do it in a fair way and under the control of the British Government and you were given all the menial tasks to do as well. There wasn’t great status in it. People who wanted to make something of it joined the RUC. Would that be right? The RUC Reserve. So it would seem pretty horrific and then to be left like that does seem to be very sad. ”
Q.8. Sean Collins (Drogheda): “I just wanted to ask now that you have carried out the research, what the political response has been? I have a little story and I won’t detain you. Growing up in the south, the UDR wouldn’t have been something I experienced except when I travel up north. We always saw on television how the British state would celebrate its soldiers and its past servicemen and all the things with parades and 40 years from D-Day and all those wonderful parties they had, and yet I was over in Scotland and I met a man who was a [chinlet???] They were the guys who …..were dropped seventy miles behind enemy lines and dropped in on gliders and then they had to fight their way back out and they were very brave men for doing that but I was amazed when he told me that he sent his service medals back because of the way his comrades and their widows were treated in the aftermath by the British Government. And really what you are saying tonight reflects a little of what he told me of his experience of 40 or 50 years ago or more and I am just wondering, what has been the response from your political representatives to your research? ”
Martin Snoddon: “Well first of all I’d like to say that that is very real in relation to today as well and a Remembrance Day Service people will go out and they will march past politicians of all descriptions and for that hour or two hours, they are in people’s consciousness. But that is one or two hours a year and the reality is that most of those people actually go back home with their memories and go back home with the support. This research has brought this more to the fore – those needs – and it is embarrassing for the British Government. It is embarrassing for other agencies that were actually meant to address those needs. So there is a resistance with regards to the promotion of this research. But also very much there are many, many people coming forward now and saying ‘that is what happened to me. I am that person. That has been my experience as well.’ So it has created a liberty to actually bring out those internal feelings to release that, to at least start talking about it in the hope of getting something done. “
Q.8: “Is this not an example of something that could be 32-county – for security forces north and south, another way of moving it forward?”
Martin Snoddon: “I think it is something that could be not only 32-county but something that could be global with regards to experience. I spoke to people.in Nicaragua. I spoke to Mozambiquans who had fought in the wars there, I spoke to South Africans, I spoke to Vietnam veterans who have been over lately actually engaging and creating a support structure and they have all said exactly the same. So this in the island of Ireland needs to include all ex-service personnel. I spoke to a former member of the Irish Regiment who was blown up 12 feet inside the North, 12 feet! He was denied compensation by the southern government because the incident took place in Northern Ireland. While he was in service, he had to quote the Irish Constitution to try to get some compensation for him as a former member of the Irish Army. So yes those types of relationships need to be developed on a global basis.”
Sean Collins: “Can I just say Roy, and I have to smile there, because last night there was a documentary on TV about Padraig Pearse….. It said that his mother and his two sisters went in to visit De Valera when he became Taoiseach in 1932 to seek help to continue on the work of Padraig Pearse. Halfway through the meeting somebody came out and said, ‘Taoiseach, there is a telephone call for you’ and he never came back.”
Q. 9. Michael Dowdall (member of Guild of Uriel): “My first question – if you were getting 3 or 4 pounds a day on a 23-hour day why would you stay? That is the first question. The second question is: why did they discriminate between the male and the female soldiers where the male soldiers could take the guns home with them and the females couldn’t take them? Thank you. The third thing I’d like to ask is when it comes to reflecting and when you think about it on the quiet night shift, I’d love to know what lessons did you draw from it and if it was going again would you join again?”
Teena and Rosemary: “Yes.”
Michael: “Well that’s the last question answered. Why did you stay for £3 a day?
Teena: “Well initially I was going to join the British Army because my father and all my family came from that line. Then when the Ulster Defence Regiment said they were taking women I thought “No, I’ll stay at home”. I thought I’d have it easier staying at home. So I joined the UDR. I didn’t realise the money was going to be so low…”
Michael: “Why didn’t you join the RUC then?”
Rosemary: “Actually, I was going to join the RUC but I was too small!
Teena: “Because of my family’s military background, I had a pride in what I was doing. The money was irrelevant. When Thatcher came into government, the wages went up. Why was there inequality? It was thought that if they didn’t arm the women, they would be less of a target when they were out on duty. Now the women were trained in SLRs, but only in the event of a male being ambushed and the male was shot. We could then take up the weapon, to make it safe. But only in that event.”
Rosemary: “That is why in the early years of the UDR when the women first came in, they didn’t wear trousers, they always wore skirts. And we swore the only reason for us in skirts, was so the young bucks who wanted to throw the bricks knew exactly where to hit you in the legs. That is truth, because they always aimed for between the knee and the ankle because that was the part of your leg that was showing.”
Teena: “But it was so you could distinguish between male and female.”
Michael: “And were there female members of the regiment killed?”
Michael Dowdall: “….was there not a trade union among the regiment?”
Rosemary: “No. There is no trade union in the army.
Michael Dowdall: The female members were obviously …With regard to PPWs – Personal Protection Weapons – for females, they thought well, if a female went home with a gun, she would be more likely to give it over than a man would, when in actual fact, everybody knows that women are more protective towards their offsprings. Like even in the animal kingdom they are more protective.”
Michaell: “So, Rosemary, answer me this question: when you reflect back, tell me some of the lessons you learned.
Rosemary: “I learned to appreciate good friends, really good friends. I learned to trust people because you are like depending on trusting who you are out with. I learned that it was probably one of the most enjoyable times of my life and that leads onto the 4th question. Yes, if I was 20 years younger and it was still going, I would be back in tomorrow.”
Teena: “We became good communicators, first aiders, trained in radios, orienteering.”
Rosemary: “And we passed on quite a lot to our families.”
Roy Garland: “Remember Michael, even in a paramilitary group or any army the sense of comradeship and fellowship is tremendous because, as you say, you are depending on each other. So you can understand because that is what people want: fellowship and friendship. That is what churches are supposed to be about. ”
Q.10: Fr. Iggy O’Donovan (Drogheda): “A term you used a lot in your talk was demonisation, and I can understand why An Phoblacht Republican News might have demonised. But even when you went into say the larger, say the loyalist/Protestant community, was there a sense of isolation there? I was interested, it came up many times, that word.”
Martin Snoddon: “Absolutely and it was that global demonisation. But let me ask my colleagues to talk about some of their experiences as they did to me during the research and just to highlight that.”
Teena: “On one occasion my sister and I, who were both in the UDR, were walking down the street to my mother’s home and there were two paramilitaries – one of them was a leading paramilitary who lived in the community – and they heckled and spat at our feet and called us ‘blankets’. That was the term that they used for women within the British forces. And that happened on regular occasions.”
Martin Snoddon: “There are another couple of incidents I could relate to. It was the UDR who actually saved Gerry Adam’s life that time in Belfast and that didn’t go down too well in the Loyalist community as you can imagine. Also the UDR were positioned to actually confront the loyalist community on occasions, for example during the Anglo-Irish Agreement and so on. They were put to the fore. So they weren’t loved as much as they had been in earlier years. They were put in that confrontational position and of course the loyalist paramilitaries were trying to operate outside the law. The UDR was trying to maintain the law. So there was confrontation there.”
Teena: “Martin talks about confrontation, Roy had spoken before about his living cheek and jowl, and whenever you are put on the front line in some of these areas, where you are living in the area and you are living in the front line of that area, that is where the confrontation comes and then you have got to go back into that area and live in that area.”
Q.11: Vincent McDevitt (An Tobar, Navan, and Meath Peace Group member): “Some of my questions have been answered already. I thought it extremely helpful sharing and knowing where you are coming from. I think it is very important for us to know and very important for you to have space to share that. The man on my left, I am disagreeing with that…if somebody has pain well, it is very important that that pain be shared. Whether the other has pain or not that is another question. But were there any obvious shortcomings on the part of the UDR? I know that is not the purpose of the meeting, it is secondary, but at the same time I am curious there, seeing as it is closed down. I wonder how many women died? That is another question I had, and then lastly I gather the ex-UDR, especially those people who suffered, are getting very little help I would like to know if your centre is getting good financial help at the moment?
“I understood your general question but I just wondered how your Centre, not just the ex-UDR in general…just in the Centre are you getting plenty of support?”
Rosemary: “Actually three Greenfinches have been murdered during the time they were serving within the UDR. One was a mother of a very young child who lived in a caravan and that was down near the border areas and she was shot in the caravan. The other two were as a result of bombings, when they were out on patrol. There have been numerous Greenfinches who have been injured, Teena and I included. We have both been injured within our service numerous times within the UDR. But that would be sort of unspoken injuries. You hear nothing more about those. What was the second part of your question?”
Roy Garland: “By the way the girl that was killed….she was killed near the border and her uncle I think it was, was also killed, because he was taken with a friend of mine Jimmy … and Jimmy had only one arm so they let him out and … Jimmy spoke openly in the press and so on and they killed the other man. It was on the other side of the border. They had been going to a meeting, I know the other fella lived in Monaghan, so it was a cross-border thing anyway and the two friends going along, two of the one family. It is just that when you say that it reminds me …… It was families who went through all this you know. Sorry I interrupted you.”
Martin Snoddon: “With regards to CTRC, the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre, and its support, CTRC is a cross-community organisation and it has it’s origins in nationalist/republican West Belfast and unionist/loyalist Northwest Belfast and it was very fortunate that coming together in relation to exploring a vision for a centre to address the needs of all who had been impacted upon by the violent conflict. We received some private money from an American Philanthropist, Chuck Feeney, Atlantic Philanthrophies, to allow us to commence the work that we have been doing for the past five years and we have worked with everyone in Northern Ireland and southern Ireland who we can contact with regards to the legacy of conflict from all persuasions, all different backgrounds, all the factions, and yet we are still to this day fighting to try to secure financial resources to allow the organisation to carry on with the services that are in increasing demand today than what they were five years ago. So there is little active financial support coming from the British Government directly. In fact we have more direct funding that has come from the Department of Foreign Affairs in the south for a specific project around Healing the Memories, a compassionate storytelling process, than what we have actually had from the British Government!
Roy Garland: “Just one other point, the shortcoming thing?”
Vincent: “That is not the main thing, the main thing is sharing where you are coming from. But at the same time, even with hindsight, were there any obvious shortcomings on the part of the UDR?”
Rosemary: “Most of the shortcomings were actually after we left the UDR.”
Vincent: “I don’t mean you personally.”
Roy Garland: “I think Vincent is thinking of the fact that the UDR was removed, was there a reason for that? They were replaced by the Royal Irish Regiment.”
Rosemary: “Well I think that was purely political.”
Q.11: Arthur O’Connor (Trim): “……..And at the beginning of the Troubles, the RUC action….that got very bad press, because that was flashed all over the world …..and reporters and everything and the more they took it was flooded with reporters from all over the world then….If the head of police at that time nipped that in the bud and was more open and apologised, I don’t know what but that is where the trouble began. The RUC haven’t many friends in the south I’ll admit but at the same time they were doing their normal work everyday, but then they were switched on to saving the country as it were and they were playing a different role and then without the army after that, it developed after that. But… Patten and the quota of Protestants and Catholics, I felt that is bizarre. A policeman’s role is a policeman, not a religious one surely and he must be anonymous. …A policeman’s role is a policeman and to police the ground …… That is my opinion and until we get back to proper policing and admit there is a lot of things that happened …I blame a lot of the police for Bloody Sunday, someone gave the order to take out a few of the terrorists and I’d say the blueprint came from the RUC……..”
Sean: “Could you clarify Roy that the UDR was not the police?”
Roy Garland: “The UDR are part of the British Army, a locally recruited regiment which …well there was overseas service as well. This was a home service….”
Q.12: “The crux of what you seem to be saying is the need for services to listen to the experiences and to try and overcome the hyperalertness, the post-traumatic stress that is going on there and you listed what is a very small facility to care for that. It strikes me that that would have to be replicated a 100, 200 times to be able to service the amount of people that it needs to deal with. Is there any sense of those facilities being put in place at all?”
Martin Snoddon: “The reality in relation to the needs are that they are almost overwhelming because of the extent of the numbers of people that were involved. However for all those people that were involved in the UDR, other family members, they don’t all need the full breadth of the services that we are suggesting need to be in place. So for some people it might just be the opportunity to come along and tell their story, there is a need with regards to more clinical type of support and supervision with regards to their past experience and for others it is just maybe the possibility of being able to retrained to be integrated back into society in a normal civilian type job but to have a safe environment to allow that retraining to take place has been an issue. The reality for me is that previously there hasn’t been any service that has been there to address it. This suggestion from this research would be the beginning of something rather than the end to be addressing all the needs.”
Teena: “And if I can just add for some it is just a phone call, to say ‘hello, how are you? I am just checking in on you’.
Rosemary: “If I could also add there would be a lot of ex-members – both male and female -who maybe joined in the ‘70s when they were 20. They are now coming up to 50, 60. They are coming to a point in their life when their old bones are starting to hurt and they are going to need help with things like wheelchairs and aids about the house which a lot of them cannot go to their own GP because their own GP is not aware of the fact that they were ever in the UDR.”
Roy Garland: “I think we have actually about five more questions, well we have got another one. Can we keep them fairly short because we are running out of time?”
Q.13: “All I wanted to say really was to congratulate you Teena. I’m delighted you got out your research at last and I know you two, I would never have known that was your background from being with you or anything else, what you have gone through and congratulations. I’m delighted for you.”
Teena: “Thank you.”
Q.14. Linda Clare (Batterstown): “Just to congratulate Martin and the girls, and Martin in particular for his excellent presentation and again to second what that lady said, for revealing to us what was unknown to us. And one question I would like to ask and if I have missed the point please tell me. As you are a branch of the army, essentially, how is the main body of the army treated when they return from the war zones …. regarding medical treatment and back-up facilities and services? …
Rosemary: “Just to go back to the beginning, I’ll just say a little bit and then I’ll pass on. At the very beginning of the Troubles, when the UDR were first formed, if we were injured we were taken to any hospital. If a regular soldier from the British Army was injured they were taken to Musgrave Military Hospital….We were never offered that protection. We were then referred to, maybe to go back to that hospital as an outpatient where everybody knew that you were a member because it was all on your records.”
Linda: “When the normal soldier from the ordinary British Army retires, does he or she get back-up help?”
Martin Snoddon: “There is an organisation that has grown recently in Great Britain called the Northen Ireland Veteran’s Association and they have a website and they are advertising a coming together with regards to a service similar to what we are talking about…[tape ends] .. …A number of those people who had suffered as a result of the conflict here, ended up in prison in Great Britain as a result of their PTSD and the absence of any treatment or facilities for that. Combat Stress does exist in Great Britain but it is a very, very minute resource with regards to the number of people that requires that service. Regular army, British regular army soldiers have also been to the Balkans, they have been to Iraq now. They have had the Falklands conflict and yet still with all that the British Government hasn’t created an institution which is what would be required to address all of those needs. Neither has the Irish Government. Neither did the American Government until the Vietnam veterans took it on themselves to create it for themselves.”
Q.15. Gareth Porter (H.U.R.T. group, Lurgan): “I really enjoyed the talk and it is obviously a traumatised body of people you’re working with and you know I am working with the same constituency. The question I’d like to ask though is, in the light of the weekend events in Donegal, what do you think the impact will be on the people you are working with …the murder of Denis Donaldson, and I don’t believe it was the leprechauns and fairies. I’m pretty specific on where I think it came from. What will be the impact on your constituency that you are working with?”
Martin Snoddon: “The first thing that would come to mind would say it reinforces their original thoughts of fear and threats. That armed wing still exists out there somewhere, so each time something like that happens it makes people shudder, because it is bringing home the reality of that threat still being in existence. They haven’t gone away and those times are very evident.”
Q.16: “Just one thing. Again, thank you very much for the presentation, it was quite thought-provoking, but I think it is also important to be said for southern people down here. I know from personal experience my own of travelling through Northern Ireland, you come around the corner, you see a checkpoint. You pray it was the British Army and not the UDR. The reality was the British Army would treat you with respect, it wasn’t the case unfortunately with the UDR. Southern car, southern people, you know so we have got that barrier to break down as well.”
Martin Snoddon: “Absolutely.”
Rosemary: “Can I just add something to that? You said that southern registration, so you were treated with disrespect. Coming from Belfast, we always treated people with respect up in Belfast. Like I mean, you had the Falls Road, you had the Shankill Road, you had Crumlin Road, you had Antrim Road, so you had Catholic, Protestant, Catholic, Protestant and the registration of the car didn’t indicate who the people were. Know what I mean? You didn’t know what area they come from. You stopped and you treated them with respect and it is just unfortunate that yes, I had heard that a couple of times, mostly in the border areas that people weren’t treated with the respect they should have been treated with. But then again, can I also add that a lot of people from the north saw the south as a breeding ground for the IRA and they assumed that everybody who came over that border had been over sort of training and it took a long time for people to realise that that is very far from the truth. A lot of people in the south didn’t know the half of what was going on in the north. But all I can do is apologise for anybody who has been treated with any sort of disrespect by the UDR because it certainly wouldn’t have happened in our battalion.”
Roy Garland: “It is certainly true what Rosemary says. I mean in the early days, the IRA was believed to be trained in the south, now some were trained in the south, but you know today we know that most of the IRA in Belfast come from Belfast. …. In those days, the border was seen as a border between two civilisations….. I have friends who are Orangemen on the other side of the border, but they tend to see it in very stereotypical terms, so some people did go along.
Questioner: “… for people who were following a football team, playing in Newcastle, you would be stopped a few miles before that, going to Derry and travelling through Donegal and this was happening regular, the mid ‘80s, early ‘90s.”
Rosemary: “I can sympathise with people. The same happened to me, coming over the border from Dublin airport.”
Martin Snoddon: “I’ve just got a wee thing with regards to that too. There was a man that I interviewed from Castlederg along the Tyrone border and he had two brothers that had been shot dead. They were members of the UDR. He was a long-term service member of the UDR and he had lots of friends and colleagues. He was talking one after the other, it was just an ongoing story of death and at one point I said “I must ask this man a question … your brothers were shot dead, you are telling me that people cheered as you took the coffin through the streets at Strabane. You were armed to the teeth. Why didn’t you go out with that gun and shoot these people that you knew, you were telling me that you knew who killed them?” And he said to me: ‘but we believed in law and order’. So maybe being a bit abusive to somebody in a car and a bit of harassment was a light thing in comparison to what could have happened as a result of what they had been experiencing on duty the day before or the week before, I don’t know.”
Julitta Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “Just a short question, and thank you again for coming up and sharing with us. One of the things that has come up a lot with victims’ groups particularly in the security forces, is this threat, and the feeling they are still under threat, so I have two questions. One is how can the government and politicians help to educate people about that and help to remove that threat? Secondly do you feel that your needs would be better addressed by a devolved government? The last talk we had, it seemed that prospect was totally out of the question by the end of the night, but is there a more realistic chance of your needs being properly debated and addressed and the needs of many victims’ groups – what Roy was talking about earlier on – under a devolved government or under what is likely to be continual direct rule, with more involvement by the Irish Government?”
Martin Snoddon: “I’ll try to attempt an answer at some of that. I’m thinking that what often helps people is when things are visible, when things are transparent. The difficulty in relation to the governments is that they seem to be operating through a vale of secrecy and who they are talking to and what their agendas are. So if there was a much more transparent process, it would be useful for people with regards to fears, those fears around nationality and so on. By and large a lot of those fears emanate from within the republican movement and thus it is only the republican movement that can actually help take away those fears. And some people within that particular community are working hard to do that, and some people are actually working hard to instil more fears, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done by various people to help evaporate the fears that exist.”
Rosemary: “I feel that the government needs to listen, truly listen in order for us to address our needs. With regard to the research and the launch of the research, they got an invitation to the research and didn’t respond. I actually handed an invitation to an NIO secretary when I was going up to meet a minister and they couldn’t attend and at the last minute, they put someone into their place, just to appease us. If that is a response from the government, what use are they to us? And until they actually do truly want to listen to our needs, I don’t think they are willing at the moment to listen to us. With regard to a devolved government, I don’t think at the minute that it is the right time.”
Roy Garland: “We have just one more, and this man was talking to me in Sandy Row on Saturday morning for I think about an hour. He is a former RUC man, he is also a Catholic. He also spoke at the West Belfast Community Festival and… the West Belfast Community Festival is organised by republicans. They do a good job. Jeffrey Donaldson spoke there, but this man who is here stands up in the middle of the upper Falls Road and starts off by saying ‘as a former RUC man…’ and then goes on and says what he has to say. I thought that was really something and nobody blinked an eyelid. And I can’t remember what he said, it was so dramatic that he said that. Go ahead Gerry.
Gerry Carolan (Belfast), who had attended several of the Meath Peace Group public talks, said that he didn’t have a question but wished instead to express his appreciation of all the work the group had made in building peace and understanding. He presented a painting to the group which was gratefully accepted by Julitta Clancy. The evening’s discussion then concluded.
Meath Peace Group Report. 2006.
Taped by Judith Hamill (audio); Jim Kealy (video). Transcribed by Judith Hamill and Julitta Clancy. Edited by Julitta Clancy
©Meath Peace Group
Appendix: ‘DRAWING A LINE UNDER THE PAST’
The Unionist Group, 16 March 2006
The Unionist Group represents an informal coming together of members of the Ulster Unionist Party since 2003. Initially a few of us met with members of Coiste na n-Iarchimí, a republican ex-prisoners group at Clonard Monastery. We also met with loyalists on the Shankill Road, with members of the SDLP and Alliance as well as with the Official Republican Group, the IRSP and with Ministers of both Governments. Many of us have worked in other contexts with people from diverse traditions and parties north and south.
While we have never formally defined our aims and objectives we are committed to healing and growth in this society and to better understanding within and between all parts of these islands. We want to see societies at peace with themselves and with their neighbours and would like to see the many constructive activities that took place across the Northern Ireland border before 1969, resumed and increased.
When considering mechanisms to help draw a line under the past, we gave prior consideration to the idea of a truth commission. The core of such an endeavour, as in the South African model, is laudable and has clearly brought benefits to that country. However in order to attain success and healing in Northern Ireland – surely the goal of seeking to draw a line under the past – the model needs to be adapted to our particular circumstances. What must be avoided at all costs in this divided society is the presentation of opportunities that could be exploited to rake over the coals of past grievances.
Many people who lost close relatives and friends wish to talk about their experiences. They want to be frank, open and confident with people around them but this is only possible when the setting and context are carefully and sensitively established. Truth is subjective, as we all know, and there is a serious risk that enquiries seeking forensic or objective truth would prove partial, inconclusive and unlikely to seriously address the hurts in society.
A semi-judicial commission, if not established in the right way, could even stimulate rivalry and discord based on conflicting perceptions. It might cause wounds to fester and extend hurt into future generations. We understand why the Presbyterian Church, the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland, was unable to endorse such a Truth Commission at this point in time. There are well founded fears that this could, like the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, gather a mass of information at tremendous cost but shed limited light on the matter under investigation and bring little healing capacity. The Agencies of the State would be expected to tell the whole truth but neither the British or Irish Governments nor the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries or others are likely to do this. Yet if the perception was to be created that ‘truth’ was being fabricated or distorted for whatever purpose, more harm than good might result.
But this is not to say there should be no quest for truth or for greater knowledge and insight. Facilities and support should be provided to encourage people’s ongoing search for truth and schools could play a greater role in facilitating understanding. But any search for a singular agreed historical narrative will, we believe, prove illusory. Present understandings are limited, influenced by very significant cultural differences and sometimes in flux and people tend to interpret limited facts in terms of their own predispositions. Any attempt to come up with final answers could leave some people feeling their story had been misrepresented or neglected. It is in any case impossible to draw a single line under the past for all time whereas healing can take place when people relate to each other and reflect together on their narratives in private, in small inclusive groups and before respectful, responsive and challenging audiences drawn from both major traditions and their subcultures.
The aim is to acknowledge, empathise and increase mutual understanding among participants, but not necessarily to agree with people’s narratives. While the presence of counsellors is desirable, most participants should be drawn from ordinary walks of life. Such an exercise, to be successful, must reflect a bottom up approach and take place in free and safe spaces.
Less dramatic accounts of ordinary people would be a vital ingredient. The sensitivity required if the exercise is to bear fruit means meetings should be conducted in private and without cameras. As confidence grows some may wish to face the cameras and this has its own value, but media encounters are on the whole likely to prove counter-productive and intrusive. Their presence changes the dynamics of the interaction in perhaps subtle but significant ways, however, audio recording, provided storytellers are in agreement might be a helpful means of retaining stories for future generations.
The exercise needs to be in the hands of communities all over Northern Ireland and led by local people, although the Secretary of State could quietly facilitate. At some stage a common act led by the Sovereign and President might also be appropriate. We gave some consideration to Days of Reflection, Memorials and Oral History Projects. Such exercises should coincide with extensive and widespread opportunities for personal narrative telling. It was also suggested that a shared space be created in every town and village. There a small copse of trees could be planted by local communities in order to reinforce a sense of hope and to bring communities together. Such projects could be co-ordinated to finish on a set date when samples of recorded personal histories would be symbolically buried in a time capsule underneath the trees symbolising new life and hope springing from the earth.
As a separate exercise it might be helpful if a representative group of academic researchers drawn from both major traditions could develop, as far as is possible, a common understanding of the main features of our historical conflict drawing upon the experiences of ordinary people on the ground.
Finally we would draw attention to Sir Kenneth Bloomfield’s report, “We Will Remember Them” issued in April 1998 and accessible at:
Note: The following Ulster Unionists are drawn from various constituency associations across Northern Ireland and are a sample of those who contributed to the above document or assented to it. The help and support of Presbyterian Minister Rev Brian Kennaway, who is not a member of the UUP, is also acknowledged.
James McKerrow Trevor Ringland Deirdre Vincent Bill White
Billy Tate David Thompson James Smyth Winnie McColl
Steven Pointon Marion Garland Peter Bowles Tony Staney
Jack Storey David Christopher Brian Dunn Joice McKinley
Ian Vincent Steven McColl Roy Garland Philip McNeill
Stuart McKinley George Fleming Rebecca Black Gavin Howell
Unionist Group: Drawing a Line under the Past, March 2006
Reproduced here by kind permission as an appendix to MPG report no. 60