Greenfinches join the UDR.

Wednesday, 18 July, 1973
'Greenfinches' in the early 1980's.

On 6 July 1973, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army presented the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill to the House of Commons for a second reading and began his statement by saying:

'The Bill is simple in its purpose and I trust that my speech will also be simple. What I am asking the House to agree to do is to allow the recruitment of women to the Ulster Defence Regiment.

In these enlightened days it may seem odd that a Bill is needed to remove this measure of apparent discrimination, but in the very different circumstances of 1969 the Ulster Defence Regiment Act, which set up the regiment following the Hunt Inquiry, specially excluded women.

At that time, no operational need to employ women in the regiment was foreseen. I am sure that the House will agree that the establishment of the regiment—the newest regiment in the British Army—and its success in contributing to the support of the security forces have been one of the more satisfactory features of the Northern Ireland scene during these past three years. Nevertheless, it is now clear that the exclusion of women from the regiment is a disadvantage.

There is certainly a place for them in the regiment, and if Parliament approves the Bill we shall be able to take them on. The immediate need is for women searchers to help the Ulster Defence Regiment battalions when conducting checks on people who might be carrying explosives or other arms. Since only women should search women, and we do not have enough members of the Women's Royal Army Corps or the RUC, there is a gap in our security arrangements. The object of the Bill is to enable us to close the gap.'

Following debate in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Bill received Royal Assent on 18 July 1973 and became the Ulster Defence Regiment Act thereby enabling the recruitment of women into the UDR. The first woman to enlist was Private Lyn Bulgin who would later become a Warrant Officer. Such was society at that time, a married woman's husband had to sign a form to indicate his permission before she could be enlisted. Women of all ranks in the UDR were referred to as 'Greenfinches' and four would be killed between 1974 and 1992.