The Royal Irish Regiment’s mercenaries from the war against Afghanistan arrived in Belfast this month to a chorus of approval from their supporters in Ireland.
The hired gunmen of the RIR were lauded as heroes and praised for their “bravery” in “getting up close and personal with the Taleban,” in the words of one of their commanders.
Pro-British politicians have arranged public events across the Six Counties to glorify the role of the regiment in keeping the Afghan people under an imperialist jack boot. There is to be an official reception in Hillsborough, a parade in Ballymena and, on November 2, a triumphalist procession through Belfast city centre along with members of the British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
These politicians have, through a largely compliant media, done their best to ensure that the uncomfortable truth of the RIR’s role in two brutal military occupations doesn’t intrude on the well managed pageant of a “homecoming” celebration.
But regardless of this attempted whitewash the notorious record of the RIR remains.
There are now 42 different states from around the world involved in the US-inspired, NATO-led occupation of Afghanistan.
Every time a missile smashes into a family home or a trigger-happy gunman opens fire on innocent men, women and children, every single one of the governments involved in the war against Afghanistan shares the blame.
But a larger share of the blame must go to Britain and the USA, who led the invasion in 2001 and have committed the majority of the fire power and personnel being deployed against one of the poorest populations in the world.
It is the British and US air forces who have dropped countless thousands of bombs and it is British and US regiments including, until last week, the RIR who are suppressing those districts that dare to offer any resistance.
In Ireland, 5,000 British combat troops remain garrisoned in the occupied Six Counties, to back up the ongoing dirty work of the PSNI and MI5.
The nationalist community have many recent and vivid memories of the RIR and its predecessor UDR in action. Every time a catholic had the misfortune to encounter an RIR checkpoint or RIR foot patrol, the prospect of abuse and assault presented itself.
As early as the mid-1970s the British government was secretly aware that large numbers of the UDR were also members of unionist death squads and that UDR weaponry and intelligence was regularly being used to kill innocent catholics.
The massacre of the Miami Show Band in Armagh in 1975 is just one example of what was effectively a joint UDR-UVF operation.
On the streets and in the countryside, the UDR/RIR was the face of Britain’s locally recruited militia, with all the ugly bigotry and vicious sectarianism that that entailed.
And, now, the citizens of Belfast are being asked to give these thugs a pat on the back and a “welcome home”.
The RIR is not “welcome” in Belfast or any other part of Ireland. As a regiment that enforces the occupation of Ireland it will be opposed. As a regiment recently returned from occupying another country and killing its peoples it will be opposed.
All Irish citizens who have first hand experience of the RIR’s modus operandi, all those who know victims of British state violence and all those who are opposed to imperialism, whether it manifests itself in Ireland or Afghanistan should make their way to Belfast on November 2, assembling at Divis Tower, Falls Road 11.30am.
Together, socialists, republicans, democrats and human rights activists should put large numbers of people on the streets to give the RIR the only reception it deserves - a hostile one.