Council unveils events saluting UDR Greenfinches

By Iain Gray

ARDS and North Down Council is to hold a special civic reception saluting the women who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment during the Troubles.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first women joining the UDR, which had initially been set up as a men-only regiment.
Known as Greenfinches, the first women recruits were enlisted in September 1973, and proved a fully integrated regiment could be successful around 20 years before the regular British army abandoned its policy of segregating soldiers by gender.
This summer, the council plans to hold a series of events marking the golden anniversary, including a special civic reception for Greenfinch veterans in Bangor City Hall.
Open to any Greenfinches who either lived or served in the Ards and North Down area from 1973 to the UDR’s end in 1992, the reception will also see special certificates presented to veterans.
Greenfinches will also be asked to lead the council’s annual Veteran’s Day parade in Newtownards.
And the council will create a lasting tribute by planting a commemorative tree with explanatory plaque, and will also honour Greenfinches with a special display in the council’s Bangor city centre commemorative flower bed.
That’s the position as laid out in plans approved by the council during a recent meeting.
Official council documents state the possibility of holding a special parade for the 50th anniversary was considered, but groups representing veterans raised concerns due to the poor mobility of some former Greenfinches.
As a result, invites to lead the Veteran’s Day parade will be sent out instead, with space made for seated guests and special mention of the anniversary in the event’s speeches.
The idea of holding events to salute the Greenfinches was the brainchild of councillor Trevor Cummings, who commented that the council’s programme would complement a series of celebrations that will be rolled out across the province.
The Greenfinches name comes from radio callsigns used by the UDR; male soldiers were referred to using the codeword ‘greentop’, while women were ‘greenfinch’. The name stuck, and is still used to refer to women in the Royal Irish Regiment today.
Enlisted women’s regular duties during the Troubles included going on patrols hunting out explosives or ammo and weapons caches, searching women and children suspected of being involved in terrorist activity, operating radios, and conducting interviews.
In barracks, they were used to staff operations rooms as well as conducting clerical and store-keeping duties, while others were trained as radar operators assisting sea patrols.