Monday, March 16, 2009

Soldiers denied parade because of security risk

Sarah Probert, Birmingham Post

A homecoming parade for Midland soldiers has been scrapped because it would pose too great a security risk, it emerged today.

The Queen’s Royal Hussars, who are currently based in Basra, Iraq, had been hopeful of marching through Belfast in front of thousands of their friends and families.

But now the regiment, who predominantly recruit from the West Midlands and Northern Ireland, have been told the parade has been scrapped amid fears it could ignite further troubles in the region.

The Queen’s Royal Hussars, who are currently mentoring the Iraqi Security Forces ahead of their departure, will be some of the last British troops to leave Basra this spring.
It is their third tour of duty since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Lieutenant Justin Kennedy-Lunde, said: “We were hopeful of having a homecoming parade in Belfast after our return later this year.

“But the emails I have seen indicate that this is now highly unlikely.

“The Royal Irish regiment encountered problems and counter protests when they held a homecoming parade.

“Put that together with recent events in Northern Ireland and the idea is no longer an option.”
Nine days ago, Sapper Mark Quinsey, aged 23, from Yardley Wood, was one of two soldiers shot dead by terrorists as he picked up a pizza delivery from outside his Masereene Barracks, in Antrim.

Dressed in desert fatigues, he was murdered by Real IRA terrorists just hours before he was due to fly to Afghanistan with his regiment.

Warrant Officer 2, Mike Malin, aged 38, a father of two from Woodgate Valley, said: “You expect to be in harms way when you are on the streets of Afghanistan or Iraq but you do not expect to be a target in the supposedly peaceful region of Northern Ireland.

“Belfast looks like Birmingham in many ways, and it was always weird to be on armed patrols in a city that looked a lot like home.

“The last thing we want is a return to the bad old days.”

It is now possible that the only homecoming parade the Queens Royal Hussars will have is in Paderborn, Germany, where they were stationed before their deployment to Iraq.

But soldiers from the regiment believe it would be fitting to hold the ceremony in Birmingham.
WO 2 Malin added: “It makes a huge difference out here to have the support of folk back at home. It makes the guys realise that we are doing something worthwhile. There are lots of guys in the regiment who have Irish surnames but are actually from the West Midlands.

“We would love to have a homecoming parade in Birmingham. I think there is generally a feeling akin to the 1940s where people realised their boys were out there doing it for them.

“More and more people are recognising that we are making the ultimate sacrifice on a regular basis. The last time we had a parade in Birmingham it nearly brought a tear to my eye, and that’s coming from a rough and tough soldier.

“But it really is that significant and a really proud day for all of us.”

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