Strippers in RUC uniform delight Ulster

In their peaked caps and bottle-green uniforms they bring back old memories of Ulster's Troubles. They handcuff former IRA and loyalist prisoners, and threaten them with truncheons.

In their peaked caps and bottle-green uniforms they bring back old memories of Ulster's Troubles. They handcuff former IRA and loyalist prisoners, and threaten them with truncheons.

But these performers are not actors in a play about sectarian conflict - they are strippers cashing in on a new nostalgia for Northern Ireland's violent past.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary may have been disbanded on the streets but in the pubs and clubs of the north of Ireland they are making a comeback.

Geoff Dowey, the owner of Angels Promotions in North Belfast, said demand for his male and female RUC strip act is highest in the most dangerous parts of the Province.

At a show in south Belfast last week, Dowey said the RUC uniform is the main event.

'Ninety per cent of our shows now are with the RUC uniform. We are doing about 40 shows a week with the RUC man or woman taking off their gloves, cuffing the "victim" and waving the truncheon.'

The show is extremely popular in republican redoubts like south Armagh, the most dangerous area for British troops to serve in during the Troubles.

Officers in the new Police Service of Northern Ireland still have to be escorted around south Armagh by the army, but Dowey's strippers drive about dressed in the old symbol of oppression.

'We've done several shows in Crossmaglen in a pub close to the big army billet. I was told there were lads in there that did time for the IRA, but they just loved seeing the RUC woman coming in, taking off her uniform and teasing them in the bar.'

With more than 300 police officers murdered during the Troubles, is Dowey not concerned that using the RUC uniforms denigrates their memory? 'No, not at all. Look, every strippogram company has the fireman stripper for the ladies. Lots of firemen died in our Troubles.

'I think the reason why there has been an upsurge in demand for the RUC strip show is that people in Northern Ireland like to laugh at themselves. Even former enemies of the police can do that, and surely that's a healthy sign,' he added.

Dowey could barely be heard over the roars and cheers inside the Pavilion Bar, a pub with a religiously mixed clientele. Most drinkers only had eyes for Angela Woodage, a slender 6ft stripper in an RUC woman's uniform.

She said she was still surprised at the popularity of the uniform: 'In the hardest republican and loyalist areas they just want me as the RUC woman. The boys ask me to handcuff them and caution them. It's as if they miss the thrill of it all.'

David McCormick, the 'RUC man' in the act, had just come off the dance floor to huge applause from the women drinking in the Pavilion. He said he was not worried about wearing a uniform that only a few years ago marked you out as a potential target.

'I never got to wear the uniform in real life, so it's nice to put it on now and earn some cash for it. The funniest things happen when you've got the gear on. If you're travelling to a club in it other cars slow down and start driving very carefully. They think you are the real McCoy,' he said.

Not everyone is happy with Angels' use of the uniforms, which during the Troubles were stolen by terrorists to pose as police officers.

'I keep getting warnings from the PSNI that I am using Crown Property and must desist. I bought the uniforms from an army surplus store. If they want to prosecute anyone, then do the store,' Dowey said. In his next show women in balaclavas and paramilitary uniforms with baseball bats will simulate IRA or loyalist punishment beating.


Henry McDonald, Ireland editor

The GuardianTramp

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