BOOKS: What the UK armed forces knew and had to say about the controversial regiment in recently declassified files

In UDR: Declassified, Micheál Smith reveals what the British establishment, the British government and its armed forces knew and had to say about the controversial regiment in recently declassified files.

From its formation in 1970 as a locally raised militia, the Ulster Defence Regiment developed into the largest regiment in the British army. For unionists, service in the UDR was a noble act and often a family tradition; for nationalists, an encounter with the UDR was frequently hostile, often brutal, and sometimes fatal. To the British army, they were ‘a dangerous species of ally’, a classic militia regiment that played its part in the British Empire’s long tradition of using such forces. It was viewed as ‘a safety valve’ for the tempers of loyalist extremism, and also served as the main source of training, weaponry and intelligence for loyalists throughout the conflict.

UDR: Declassified is an evidence-based exposé of the UDR using declassified files from 10 Downing Street, the MoD and the NIO. It is a deep dive into the British national archives that uncovers what the British political and military command were saying and writing about the UDR.

These details shine a light on the secrets of the UDR, which many in the British establishment and command would perhaps rather had not been discovered, such as information on the operations of the Glenanne gang, with the exposure of a known gang member as a UDR man with links to ‘The Jackal’, Robin Jackson. Other documents may call into question the very legality of the UDR’s operations.

Although the term ‘collusion’ has been derided by those sympathetic to British colonialism in Ireland, in fact the British were well aware of what was going on and frequently referred to it internally as ‘collusion’ from the early 1970s.

Lest we think such collusion is confined to the past, at the beginning of 2021 the Northern Ireland Office was meeting loyalist extremist groups to discuss British foreign policy (Brexit). In 1974, they were consulting them on the direction of the UDR, leading to the bizarre situation where loyalist extremists were dictating British military policy.

Throughout the 1970s the British wrestled with the problem of loyalist ‘Subversion in the UDR’. Despite concerns of ‘serious penetration’ of the UDR in Belfast by the UVF – which included a member of the Shankill Butchers – this information was withheld from the public and parliament after a deliberate decision by army commanders to cover up evidence.

The denial of access to history is a part of continuing efforts by the British state to obscure its colonial past. This book is a testimony to the value of defying such efforts and uncovering the truths behind our traumatic past.

Paperback • €18.95 | £16.99 • 280 pages •  215 mm x 135 mm • 9781785374272

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