• Short Summary

    Northern Ireland's all Protestant "B" Specials police reserve - disbanded amid nationwide controversy two years ago - is reported to be regrouping.

  • Description

    GTV Police tussle with demonstrators

    SV ZOOM IN "B" Specials at briefing

    SV Troops clearing wreckage & moving furniture from house

    SV Army bulldozer at work

    SV Troops setting up field hospital

    SV Army patrol car along road

    GV & SV Troops behind barbed wire & barricade across street

    SV Armoured car away from petrol bomb

    SV Catholic marchers carrying IRA flag(3 shots)

    SV Group of men women and children Waving petrol bombs

    GV ZOOM IN Protestant flag with union jacks by roadside

    SV Rev. Paisley & supporters

    SV Group of "B" Specials leaving briefing

    Initials SGM/0108 SGM/0051

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Northern Ireland's all Protestant "B" Specials police reserve - disbanded amid nationwide controversy two years ago - is reported to be regrouping.

    The volunteer Specials - much feared by the country's Roman Catholic minority - were about 8,000-strong when the government replaced them. A new part-time defence force called the Ulster Defence Regiment and an unarmed police reserve took over.

    The "B" men grew out of the 85,000-man illegal Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) which was drilled until 1914 to defend Protestant Ulster. In 1920 members of the UVF gained official recognition as the "B" Specials force. By July 1922, 49,000 of them were active dedicating themselves to crushing the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

    Until 1969 they continued to guard strategic installations against sabotage, assist at border patrols - and act as police reserves in urban trouble spots. They were answerable only to the Ministry of Home Affairs in their efforts to prevent the IRA spearheading a move towards a united Ireland.

    But Roman Catholics accused the specials of being "Trigger-happy" and even the regular police regarded them with considerable hostility especially after several violent months in 1969.

    The disappearance of the Specials - and the simultaneous increase in the peace-keeping role of British troops - was welcomed by much of the Catholic community. Many Protestants, however, saw the specials as a last line of defence against the incursions from the Republican South of Ireland - and lamented their departure.

    Recent reports have said that an emergency meeting of the "B" Specials association was to be held in secret on Friday(Sept 3) to express their willingness to defend Ulster against the IRA. Whether they can again become a force in Irish politics remains to be seen.

    SYNOPSIS: Northern Ireland 1969 - and hostility between Catholic and Protestant spills once more onto the streets. But the regular police force weren't along in the midst of the protests.

    Another police force - this time, all-Protestant - were also equipped with the powers to maintain order. The 8,000 volunteers of the "B" Special unit had almost 50 years doing just that. Their training - about 25 hours spread over eight weeks. After that they were armed with revolvers, rifles or sub-machine guns which they kept in their homes. Until August 1969 they worked on border patrols, guarded vital installations and, most significantly, dominated urban trouble spots.

    Then, after several months of violence they were instructed to disband. British troops moved in to fill the gap left by a police force - which had numbered as much as 49,000 in 1922. The dark green and an uniforms disappeared as the Northern Ireland government formed a new-style peace-keeping body modelled on the unarmed British "bobbies". The Specials had been answerable only to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

    But now everyone was answerable to the British Army. The arrival of the steel-helmeted troops - armed with automatic rifles and sten guns - apparently eased the tension here in riot-torn Londonderry. But the "B" Specials had left a tense legacy. There had been great suspicion between them and the regular police, Much of the Catholic minority hated the Specials, regarding them as a para- military arm of Protestant extremists. The volunteers - dedicated to stamping out all influence of the Irish Republican army (IRA) - had hounded Ulster's Catholics as potential sympathisers, they claimed.

    And Catholics marched through the streets cheering, chanting and carrying the Irish Republican flag to celebrate of the departure of the "B" specials and the regular police once.

    Others greeted the arrival of the troops with petrol bombs.

    But the Protestant side of the barricades saw a different reaction. They demonstrated vigorously against the government's decision.

    Led by the Reverend Ian Paisley, they saw the loss of the "B" specials as opening Ulster to incursions from the catholic Irish Republic south of the border.

    And recent reports suggest that former members of the specials feel the same way. Am emergency meeting of the "B" specials association is to be held in secret on Friday. The aim - reportedly to regroup and form a militant striking force against the I.R.A.

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