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Earlier today Belfast hosted a homecoming parade for the Royal Irish Regiment.

For Sinn Fein and symathisers any celebration of the British Army is an affront to their republicanism.  Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice remembered the Brirtish Army in this way in the Belfast Telegraph:

"In Ireland the British Army is responsible for the use of lethal force, shoot-to-kill, the use of rubber and plastic bullets, collusion, internment and torture — all with official impunity."

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For Owen Paterson MP, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, the Royal Irish deserve to be honoured for their work in Afghanistan:

"For the past six months the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, has been deployed on Herrick 8.  Their immensely difficult job was to mentor and assist the Afghan National Army in all aspects of its operations. It is vital for the future security of Afghanistan that a non sectarian army is created.

It needs a unique set of skills to take on raw Afghan troops from a wide variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, speaking different languages, to teach them, to encourage them, to organise them and then accompany them into battle.  This job has been performed supremely well by the Royal Irish, in one of the toughest and most dangerous battle zones in Helmand…

This immensely difficult work has been carried out by people from across the community in Northern Ireland and a good number from south of the border.  With horrible symmetry two friends were injured, one a catholic from Dublin the other a protestant from Belfast.  Over 70 have been injured and tragically, Ranger Justin Cupples was killed days before the end of the tour.  Our thoughts will be with his family and friends as we celebrate our troops’ return."

Read a PDF of Owen Paterson’s full article.

6 comments for: Owen Paterson defends Belfast celebration of Royal Irish Regiment’s Afghan service

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