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Longest running Campaign in British Military History..

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Northern Ireland Future Allowances and Changes

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): On 1 August 2005 the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced the start of the normalisation programme outlined in the Joint Declaration. Stage 1 of this programme will be complete by 31 July 2007 and, at that time, operation banner will end. An allowances and charges package specific to the operational, security and welfare

20 July 2006 : Column 37WS

circumstances of operation banner is currently in place. With the end of operation banner, however, Northern Ireland will no longer be classed as an operational theatre and, as a result, there will be a number of changes to the package. On 1 August 2007, personnel serving in Northern Ireland will commence payment of food and accommodation charges, and contributions in lieu of Council Tax on the same basis as those elsewhere in the United Kingdom and overseas. Other provisions associated with operational status will also cease, such as operational telephone allowance, welfare entertainment, free e-blueys and the award of operational medals. Other Northern Ireland-related allowances, including: Northern Ireland resident’s supplement, which is paid to all personnel serving on permanent assignment in Northern Ireland, in recognition of the impact of the security situation on them and their families; Northern Ireland journeys, which allows personnel and their accompanying families to return to Britain regularly to obtain respites from the pressures of living in Northern Ireland; and other lesser provisions will be retained for the time being, but will be kept under review as the normalisation programme progresses.

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Medal protest at RIR disbandment

An Ulster Unionist has handed over his service medal to Tony Blair in protest at the disbandment of three battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment.

East Belfast assembly member Michael Copeland handed over his Ulster Defence Regiment medal and a letter of protest to Downing Street on Saturday.

Mr Copeland said the cutbacks had aroused feelings of anger and betrayal.

He said it was an "act of appeasement designed to entice murderers and terrorists" into democracy.

The disbandment of the regiment's Northern Ireland-based battalions is part of the response to the IRA ending its armed campaign.

But Mr Copeland said the government had an "ambiguous" attitude to terrorists.

"I joined the Ulster Defence Regiment as a private soldier rising through the ranks before achieving the status of a commissioned officer," he said.

"I did so because service with the regiment was the only avenue available to me through which I could contribute to the defence of my country, in the face of a most vociferous terrorist campaign.

"Your government's decision has quite understandably aroused feelings of anger and betrayal."

He said it was "with very great sadness" that he was handing in his general service medal.

Mr Copeland also presented the prime minister with a book which details the story of the UDR and lists those murdered by terrorists.

"I fully understand that emotion has little place in politics and must often be deferred to pragmatism," he added.

"I remain, however, extremely concerned at the way in which the officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the Royal Irish learned of their fate and the continuing uncertainty regarding the settlement package that will be made available to them.

"Personally speaking, I find the attitude of your government in its policies towards terrorists - be they foreign or domestic - ambiguous to say the least."

The Northern Ireland-based battalions of the regiment are to be disbanded on 1 August 2007, the same day as the Army ends its support role to the police.

More than 3,000 soldiers serve in the three battalions, many part-time.

Troop levels in the province are to fall from 10,500 to 5,000 in two years time.

The Royal Irish Regiment was formed in 1992, with the merger of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

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And, for us, more important than the "longest-running campaign" or political issues, apparently the end of the British use of the "medal and clasp" pattern which began (though actually with the East India Company, not the "Crown") with the medals for the first Sikh war.

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