State Papers 1986: Irish government demand for RUC accompaniment of UDR patrols rejected

General also felt Dublin proposal for UDR deployment away from its home areas would cause ‘Protestant uproar’

 Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Brooke. Photograph: Brian Morrison/Pacemaker Press

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Brooke. Photograph: Brian Morrison/Pacemaker Press

 

The top British army officer in Northern Ireland in 1989 viewed the Irish government’s demand for RUC accompaniment of UDR patrols as difficult from a logistical point of view.

He also ruled out an Irish proposal for the deployment of the controversial regiment away from its home areas.

The views of General Sir John Waters emerge in previously-confidential files released in Belfast under the 30/20 year rule.

Writing to the NI Secretary, Peter Brooke on October 6th, 1989 from Military Headquarters in Lisburn, the general said he had been briefed by an official on a recent Anglo-Irish meeting and wished to give his views.

He imagined the Irish were satisfied with the extra screening procedures introduced for UDR recruits.

On the issue of an RUC presence with UDR patrols – a proposal which angered Unionists – he described this as difficult, citing available police resources as the limiting factor. “Ultimately, it is an RUC problem.”

However, he felt the British government should not accept any reduction of the army’s operational commitment in any area, “whether sensitive or not”.

On the issue of the UDR operating away from its home areas – promoted by the Irish side of the Secretariat – he felt this was unacceptable. “As I understand it,” he told Brooke, “the Irish have a perception that the UDR generally behaved better away from their home areas and, by the same logic, are worse behaved in their home patch.”

The general found this “a very dubious argument”.

Overall, he wrote, “expense and resource implications apart, the vastly increased convoys [involved in any such deployment] would be a gift from heaven for the IRA”.

Finally, he told the Secretary of State: “I think such a measure would affect the Regiment’s morale and cause Protestant uproar”.