09/03/2006

RIR soldiers to receive £250m in redundancy package

The Government has announced that a total of £250 million will be given in redundancy packages for 3,000 Northern Ireland Royal Irish Regiment soldiers.

Defence Minister Adam Ingram has revealed that full-time soldiers are to receive a payment of £28,000, which will include a tax-free redundancy payment and a pension.

Part-time soldiers will also be given a special ex-gratia payment of £14,000, however they are not entitled to a redundancy package.

It was also revealed today that under the terms a senior officer with 22 years of service could receive over £150,000.

There will also be a welfare package to help full and part-time RIR members resettle, retrain and find new employment, and an aftercare service for soldiers affected by the redundancies will also be managed by the headquarters of the regiment.

Royal Irish Regiment members were previously informed of the redundancy plan today before the announcement in the House of Commons and were given an individual statement outlining how it would affect them personally.

It was also confirmed the regiment's band will be dispersed by March 2008 and replaced by the Northern Ireland Territorial Army band which will be renamed the Royal Irish Regiment Band (TA).

Regular Army musicians in the current RIR band will be posted to other bands.

It was announced last August that the three home service battalions would be disbanded by August 2007, as a result of the IRA decommissioning campaign. This date will coincide with the day in which the Army is due to withdraw its support to police.

Speaking earlier, Adam Ingram said: "The unique and exceptional payment of the tax-free ex-gratia award is specifically designed to acknowledge the impact that disbandment will have on soldiers currently serving with the Royal Irish Regiment battalions.

"This is a very generous package and reflects the regard in which the home service is held."

The Ministry of Defence has also offered an alternative of a £10,000 taxable bounty, to members of the RIR, who wish to transfer into general service within the armed forces.

Mr Ingram continued: "I know that the day of disbandment will be a sad one for the battalion and for each and every member of the home service, but we should take the opportunity and look at how far we have come.

"They should all be rightly proud of the crucial role they have played in creating the environment for normalisation."

Over the next two years, it is likely that the number of troops in Northern Ireland will drop by around 50%.

(EF/SP)

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