10/03/2006

Special honour announced for former UDR and RIR members

Defence Minister Adam Ingram has today announced that the service of the UDR and Royal Irish Regiment is to be formally recognised.

The announcement came during Mr Ingram's visit to Drumaad Barracks in Armagh, where he met with RIR soldiers affected by the disbandment of the home service units.

The Minister added that the although the details had not yet been "fully defined," the honour could be along the same lines as the George Cross, which was awarded to RUC members.

However, he said that it would be up to the Army to decide "what's appropriate".

Speaking earlier, Mr Ingram said that most of the soldiers he met with today had been satisfied with the pay-offs they have been offered.

Yesterday, the Minister announced that a total of £250 million would be given in redundancy packages for 3,000 Northern Ireland Royal Irish Regiment soldiers.

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 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.

It was announced last August that the three home service battalions would be disbanded in 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.

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.

It is understood that over the next two years, the number of troops in Northern Ireland could drop by around 50%.

(EF/SP)

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