A meeting has taken place with veteran Greenfinches in Mid and East Antrim to discuss a proposal to mark the 50th anniversary of the recruitment of women into the former Ulster Defence Regiment.
In April, Mid and East Antrim councillors supported a motion to commemorate the landmark recruitment.
The motion was proposed by the council’s Veterans’ Champion Carrickfergus Castle Alderman Billy Ashe MBE who chaired the meeting at which the group put forward suggestions to mark the milestone.
These included the installation of a memorial opposite an existing UDR commemoration at Carrick’s Marine Gardens, the publication of a collection of memories of women who served in the UDR, the hosting of an event in their honour and a council exhibition dedicated to the Greenfinches.
Alderman Ashe advised he has also approached neighbouring UDR associations for input.
It is expected a cost of £7,000 would be met through council budget provision for the 2023/24 financial year but would increase accordingly if similar tributes take place in other towns in the borough.
Officers are to carry out equality screening ahead of events proposed to take place during the anniversary year.
The female recruits known as Greenfinches were permitted to join the UDR following the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill on July 6 1973 which saw 352 female members sign up in the first year
Legislation was brought forward “as a matter of urgency” to enable female soldiers to search female civilians. Alderman Ashe recalled four Greenfinches were murdered between 1974 and 1992.
At last week’s meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Alderman Ashe reported contact from other towns in the borough with regard to a memorial and a social occasion to mark the anniversary.
Braid Ulster Unionist Councillor Alan Barr said he wished to support councillor Ashe’s notice of motion. He said he proudly served in the UDR’s successor, the Royal Irish Regiment.
“I witnessed first-hand the professionalism, teamwork and dedication of the regiment’s female soldiers. These qualities were demonstrated at all times whether on patrol, operating vehicle checkpoints or during training.
“I hope to see this momentous event being commemorated in Ballymena also.”
Ballymena Alliance councillor John Hyland asked if the cost could be looked at and brought forward if other areas are included.
Bannside Sinn Fein councillor Ian Friary said it was “absolutely shameful”.
Alderman Ashe said the cost would be three times what is stated in the report to councillors. Councillor Hyland asked for the “actual costings” to be provided.
There were four abstentions to the recommendations.