Hang on a second until I climb up on this rooftop...There we are. Now I can shout it: ‘WELL DONE LISBURN CITY COUNCIL!” Other councils may be petty and squabble over six-inch union flags (Are you listening, Limavady?) but in Lisburn things get done differently. And bigger. And more permanently. The statue unveiled at the weekend in that City is 19 FEET HIGH (you and your six-inches, Boyd Douglas). It’s made of bronze and it shows a male UDR soldier holding up the traffic and a female ‘Greenfinch’ saying something into her walkie-talkie. The plinth has plaques for each of the regiment’s battalions and it was unveiled by Viscount Brookeborough.
What’s good about this piece of public art? Well, several things. It’s bronze, so any unpatriotic thug intent on chipping a piece off will find his hammer bouncing back into his own face. It’s big, so even short-sighted people whether Lisburn citizen or day-trip visitor can’t miss it. And it depicts the UDR at its best – holding up the traffic and talking into walkie-talkies. It could have shown the UDR doing other things it did before it had to be disbanded, but you can’t possibly get everything into a statue, so why not choose the nice bits, is what I always say.
But the crowning glory of this statue is its inclusiveness. ALL of the people of Lisburn – Protestant and Roman Catholic - can join in this tribute. In a sense these bronze non-denominational figures, as they stand there immobile, are working for all the community. They allow – what am I talking about, they invite the Roman Catholics of Lisburn and Roman Catholic visitors to the City to join in the applause of this fine regiment. It’s also hoped that these figures, one male, one female, will help Roman Catholic men and Roman Catholic women forget that unfortunate misunderstanding back in 1920 – and let’s be honest, one or two since - when so many of them left the City, or town as it was then, under the impression they weren’t wanted. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Now all right-thinking people of the Province of course appreciate how delicate and difficult is the work of reconciliation, so the city of Lisburn takes particular satisfaction in being able to give this bronze lead. That’s why, when it had to decide who would unveil this monument, the City looked around and selected Viscount Brookeborough. By selecting him, the glorious past was linked to an equally glorious future. Because Viscount Brookeborough is a direct descendant of the much-loved Lord Brookeborough, who older readers will remember urged his Protestant neighbours to seize every opportunity to hire Roman Catholics and lamented the fact that he himself had been unable to do so: despite his best efforts, he couldn't find one about the place. Equally, the bronze statue looks to the future, reassuring not just the citizens of Lisburn but throughout the Province that the values exemplified in the UDR are not of a by-gone era but will be maintained indefinitely.
As for the present, deeds as always speak louder than words, and statues louder than Agreements. There are some unionists who don’t understand, or say they don’t understand, why we unreservedly applaud the actions of our security forces over the last forty years. Let them come to Lisburn. There are some unionists who say we should even feel ashamed of some actions associated with the UDR. Let them come to Lisburn. And there are some who say that parity of esteem is the wave of the future. Let them come to Lisburn.