Local News Collins Slams Irish Guards Merger Plans By David Young Monday 16th August 2004 The future of Her Majesty's Irish Guards is under threat, according to a leaked Government document. Ministry of Defence officials are considering a possible merger of the five traditional battalions of the Queen's guards into one larger unit as part of their rationalisation strategy. The Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Welsh and Irish guards have a collective history that stretches back almost 400 years, but this could be at an end if plans to form the new regiment, to be called the Foot Guards, are approved. The Irish Guards were founded in 1900 by Queen Victoria to commemorate the bravery of Irish soldiers during the Boer War. The regiment has since served in both World Wars and the first Gulf War, second Gulf War,as well as undertaking peacekeeping duties in recent years in Sierra Leon, Macedonia and Kosovo. However, a letter revealed by a Sunday newspaper yesterday, suggests that Chief of Defence Staff Sir Mike Jackson wants to dissolve the Irish Guards and absorb them into the new Foot Guards. The plan follows proposals outlined by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon last month, in which he called for the streamlining of infantry units and greater focus on technology rather than manpower in the future. Yesterday, Tim Collins, the Belfast-born former commander of the Royal Irish Regiment, slammed the amalgamation plan as "misguided and potentially damaging", claiming it would erase the distinct regional identity of the five regiments. "Regiments have been the backbone of the British Army since its formation," he told the Mail on Sunday. "They appeal to the most basic instincts of men to fight for the places and people they love. "The danger is that the system will be pared down to a point where the regiment has no real meaning and fails to attract the young men of the cities and shires who have peopled our fighting forces for generations." Ministry of Defence officials were yesterday refusing to comment on future of the Irish Guards, saying no decision had yet been made. "It is not the policy of the MoD to comment on leaked documents," a spokesman said. "As announced on July 21st this year, there are plans to restructure the army and this will involve fundamental changes to infantry battalions." "However this process is in a period of consultation, which is ongoing, and no decisions have yet been taken. So at this moment in time the Ministry cannot comment on the future of the Guards regiments."