30/09/2003

DUP attacks plans to 'phase out' RIR

DUP Councillor, Sammy Wilson has attacked an alleged leaked document which says that the home service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment are to be scrapped.

Mr Wilson claimed his party has seen Government documents which showed that the home service battalions will be disbanded in three phases between 2005 and 2008.

He said: "We oppose outright the destruction of the Royal Irish Regiment. We cannot see the necessity of disbanding the RIR when it is anticipated that a permanent army presence will be required in Northern Ireland.

"The Royal Irish Regiment could make up half of any permanent army presence here and would have the benefits of continuity, local knowledge and expertise, flexibility and would be more cost effective."

However, the SDLP's Justice spokesperson, Alban Maginness said reports of the RIR disbandment was "news to nobody".

He added: "The writing is on the wall for the RIR. The Good Friday Agreement commits the British Government to normal security arrangements.

"It is not normal to have armed military patrols drawn almost exclusively from one side of the community. Nowhere else is there a regiment which is recruited and serves locally."

(MB)

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