The parade prepares to move off
A 'lasting legacy' to the memory of UDR members has been unveiled in Lisburn in the form of a new sculpture honouring the regiment.
The 19 foot bronze statue was officially unveiled in Market Square by Viscount Brookeborough, himself a former UDR soldier, following a parade of around 500 former UDR members through the city. Addressing the large crowd, which included members of Lisburn City Council, local MLAs and Lagan Valley MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, Viscount Brookeborough said the statue was a "fitting tribute" to those who served and an appropriate way to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The unveiling was followed by a service of dedication led by the former Archbishop of Armagh Lord Eames and a reception hosted by Lisburn City Council.
The bronze memorial of a male UDR soldier and a female 'Greenfinch' on operational duty have been set on a Mourne granite plinth in memory of the 50,000 men and women who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment.
Each of the regiment's battalions is represented on the plinth in the form of plaques which were also hand crafted by the sculpture's creator John Sherlock.
In all, over 260 serving and former members of the UDR were killed, and almost 500 seriously wounded, many of them off-duty at their homes or workplaces.
Lisburn's Deputy Mayor, Alderman William Leathem said it was a fitting tribute to the brave men and women who served in the Regiment.
"It is entirely appropriate that this impressive Memorial is situated in this City and its presence is testament to the high regard that the Regiment is held here in Lisburn" he said.
"This Memorial is a lasting legacy to the hundreds of UDR members who were killed or injured and the thousands more who proudly served in its 22 year history. "It was a wonderful occasion to see so many members of the Regimental Association and The Royal Irish Regimental Band and Pipes and Drums on parade in Lisburn in recognition of the Regiment's significant role in Northern Ireland's history."
Also in attendance was Lisburn Councillor, Ronnie Crawford, a former UDR soldier whose brother Maynard was the sixth member of the regiment to be murdered by terrorists in January 1972.
Mr. Crawford said: "The UDR Regimental Association are to be warmly congratulated on the provision of a most magnificent monument in tribute to all who served within its ranks.
"It is a most impressive sculpture, worthy perhaps of more gracious surroundings and a fitting reminder of all the sacrifices made by the vast number of its members who responded to the call of Queen and country in order to defend democracy against the dark forces of evil.
"It was most encouraging to see so many of the UDR family present, some of whom still bear the scars of the conflict and also to meet the relatives of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. To them, this monument bears an even more special significance." Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, himself a former UDR corporal, said he was proud to have the sculpture erected in Lisburn.
"It was great to see such a large turnout, from all of the six counties of Northern Ireland and indeed the city of Belfast. 'Although, nice as it is to see such a large crowd of former regiment members and local community, it's important to remember those who couldn't be here because they sacrificed their lives to bring peace to this country and to protect the community.
"That's what this sculpture is all about," Mr. Donaldson added.
MLA Basil McCrea paid tribute to the men and women who were part of the UDR through the Troubles.
He said: "This impressive piece of artwork is a great tribute to the bravery of the men and women, who put their lives on the line during some of Northern Ireland's worst days.
"The memorial statue has been rightly placed in one of the busier parts of our city so that we can remember the sacrifices that these men and women made."
He added: "It is important that we don't have to face the tragedies and conflict these men and women faced. It is important that we give our current soldiers and officers the same support that we've given to these former UDR members. The courage of all soldiers and officers, past and present, is something we should never forget."
The UDR Memorial Trust said they felt it appropriate the statue should be erected in Lisburn given that the regiment was originally formed in the city in 1970.
Internationally acclaimed sculptor John Sherlock was commissioned to make the tribute and he was among the guests of honour on the day to oversee the unveiling and dedication.
Surrounded by well-wishers congratulating him on the realism of the bronze figures, Mr. Sherlock said he was proud of the work and felt privileged to have been involved with the UDR Memorial Trust.
"It was an honour to asked to do the sculpture and I know how important this has been to everyone connected with the regiment," he said.
Mr. Sherlock said he had been given a great reception in Lisburn and added: "Everyone seems to be delighted with the sculpture and I regard it as the pinnacle of my career. It is a deserving tribute to a very worthy and amazing group of men and women."
Crowds line the streets to watch the ceremony in Lisburn- Pic: Cliff Donaldson
Crowds at the unveiling and dedication of the UDR Memorial in Lisburn City Centre. Pic by Presseye.