NI Veterans Commissioner responds to Chris Donnelly’s social media post.
Earlier this week, commentator and former Sinn Fein election candidate, Chris Donnelly, referenced a quote on social media from Belfast City Councillor Jim Rodgers who had stated “We as a council cannot permit people who are terrorists on portraits”- Chris Donnolly included in his social media post a picture of the memorial window in City Hall to those who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment CGC (1970-1992), with the implication that they were terrorists. As Veterans Commissioner I will continue to call out this ongoing denigration and demonisation of our Armed Services and veterans.
The brave men and women who served during the Ulster Defence Regiment’s twenty-two year history, did so with great honour and dignity and stood against terrorism and all its horrors and did so on behalf of all society. Around 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles. It is well documented that 90% of these deaths were caused by terrorists (60% by republican paramilitaries and 30% by loyalist paramilitaries), not to mention the many thousands of individuals left with both physical and psychological damage as result of the terrorist campaign.
Over 60,000 wore the uniform of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and did so with the understanding that their service placed them at risk every hour of every day – there was no respite on duty or off duty or even after they left the Regiment. Sadly, there is a long Roll of Honour for those members of the Regiment who lost their lives at the hands of terrorism. 197 were killed both on and off duty, including four women (Greenfinches), as well as over 60 killed after leaving the Regiment. Over 400 were seriously wounded and many still continue to suffer both psychologically and physically as a result of their service.
It is also important to note that many families were impacted by terrorism and still bear the pain of losing family members, whether as a member of the security services or from the innocent civilian population.
In 2006, when Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, came to Belfast to present the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross to the Ulster Defence Regiment she said that the contribution of the Regiment to peace and stability within Northern Ireland had been unique and had required ‘uncommon courage and conviction’. Her Majesty reflected that ‘no challenge faced by the Ulster Defence Regiment went unmet, whatever the personal cost’.
Society should know and have the opportunity to recognise the extraordinary contribution these men and women have already made – and how they continue to do so to the present day.
As the voice for all veterans living in Northern Ireland, I will continue to speak up for them and again I pay tribute to the men and women who served and continue to serve in our Armed Forces, including the former members of the Ulster Defence Regiment CGC, ever remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country. Society owes deep thanks and gratitude to all of our Armed Forces veterans.
NI Veterans Commissioner
13 October 2022