HL Deb 18 December 1984 vol 458 cc537-8

2.51 p.m.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect to be in a position to make a statement concerning the future of the depot of the Royal Irish Rangers at Ballymena.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the depot of the Royal Irish Rangers at Ballymena currently accommodates both junior and adult training. Its dual training task is currently being examined in the light of the recent comprehensive review of all army training. I hope that it will not be too long before I can make an announcement on its future role.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend. Leaving aside the military arguments in this case, is my noble friend aware that it is already being said in Northern Ireland that this is the first sign of a surrender, indicating the intention to withdraw the army from Northern Ireland? Does my noble friend realise that as long as that threat remains it represents a powerful weapon in the psychological armoury of the IRA?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the suggestion which my noble friend reports is, of course, without foundation. Nonetheless, I have recently visited the barracks at Ballymena and met local people, and naturally all these points of view will be taken into account.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this is the only regiment in the army which is recruited wholly in Ireland? Would it not be unthinkable to withdraw from Ballymena to (I think it is proposed) Catterick? Surely we must have a recruiting centre in Ireland to recruit from the main source for this very remarkable, long-serving and long-enduring regiment.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend repeats a point of view which has been put to me very forcibly.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, when the noble Lord opposite says that it is the only regiment recruited in Northern Ireland, has he forgotten the Ulster Defence Regiment?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord underlines the diversity of view on this matter.

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