A former UDR major says that Martin McGuinness’s link to the murder of soldiers under his command must not be forgotten.
Yorkshire man Michael Butler served tours with the Parachute Regiment in Fermanagh and Belfast from 1969, joining the UDR in 1982.
He went on to retire as a major, having been company commander of UDR D Coy, which was made up of full-time soldiers in Armagh.
While everyone he knew in the UDR in Armagh at the time was living under permanent pressure, he said he was able to drive away to his home in Carrickfergus.
His men were permanently on patrol in Armagh with no regular breaks back to England, as other regiments would enjoy.
Two of his men died after an IRA mortar attack in Armagh city in March 1991 – Privates Paul Sutcliffe and Roger Love. Two others were seriously injured.
“The guys were a very tight-knit group and obviously they were really hit hard by the deaths,” he said.
“The first thoughts of anyone normal would be of revenge, but that is not what happened. They had to go back on patrol the next day and carry out normal duties such as vehicle checkpoints, and do it exactly as though nothing had happened. It says a lot about them that they could do that. They were a credit to the UDR.”
From then on he lived with the “dreaded” possibility that every time his phone rang it would be news that some more of his men had been killed.
He would like to see a monument to everyone killed during the Troubles, but believes it is unlikely to happen.
“In some ways it is kind of sad because when you look at Martin McGuinness’s funeral, the fallout of that, where people started looking at this terrorist ... and the amount different things, of incidents that happened ... they are just one after the other and you think to yourself – are we really going to just forget that [the IRA violence] all happened?
“I don’t think we should let it change the rest of our lives but I think that we shouldn’t forget what went on – so that we can move on.
“But it is just mind boggling really. Let’s face it, everybody knows that he [McGuinness] was at the top of the IRA.”
He believes Mr McGuinness “was always in there running the show” in the IRA even after becoming a politician.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think that as a politician he was quite canny, I think that he was very effective as a politician.
“But he went to his grave and there is a lot of stuff there that he took with him.
“And when we talk about justice and integrity, where is Roger Love’s mother? Where is her justice and integrity going to be? That is the part I find really hard to stomach.”
He recently took part in a ‘Hymns of Faith and Hope’ service at St Mark’s Church in Armagh in memory of murdered members of the security forces. The event raised funds for the Co Armagh Memorial Wall, to commemorate all murdered security force members in Co Armagh.
READ MORE ABOUT THE CO ARMAGH MEMORIAL WALL APPEAL: www.armaghmemorial.org