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Prince Andrew should be stripped of RIR honorary position, say military chiefs

The Royal Irish Regiment were presented with new Colours by the Duke of York in Belfast last year
The Royal Irish Regiment were presented with new Colours by the Duke of York in Belfast last year
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Senior military figures have called for the Duke of York to be stripped of his honorary positions - including as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Irish Regiment - ahead of the first major British TV interview with a woman who accuses him of sexually exploiting her.

The former naval helicopter pilot, who flew in the Falklands War, holds several senior military titles, including honorary colonel of the Grenadier Guards.

However, it has emerged that Prince Andrew's appointment as the figurehead for the Grenadier Guards - one of the Army's most illustrious regiments - following the Duke of Edinburgh's retirement left top brass reeling with embarrassment in 2017.

The row broke out before the ongoing controversy surrounding Andrew's links to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The billionaire financier took his own life in prison earlier this year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

It is understood that senior officers asked the Palace if another member of the royal family could represent the unit which is highly regarded for its "determination, loyalty and grit".

Last week a spokeswoman for Andrew announced he will be temporarily standing down from all the organisations of which he is a patron, including several in Northern Ireland, following a backlash over a disastrous BBC Newsnight interview.

It saw the duke heavily criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards the victims of his late friend.

The ongoing scandal has also prompted senior personnel in the army and navy to call for the duke, who holds nine significant honorary positions, to be stripped of all his military appointments. That would see him lose his status as Royal Colonel of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, Colonel-in-Chief of the Yorkshire Regiment, the Royal Irish Regiment and the Small Arms School Corps.

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The Duke of York’s Newsnight interview (Mark Harrison/BBC)

It would also result in him being dismissed as Deputy Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Lancers, Commodore-in-Chief of the Fleet Air Arm and Admiral of the Sea Cadets and an honorary air commodore in the RAF.

Although charities continue to sever links with Andrew, it has proved more difficult for the Armed Forces, which are bound by an allegiance to the Queen and therefore prohibited from taking the initiative. However, according to The Times, Buckingham Palace has made it clear that the duke is keeping his military commands.

The newspaper also claimed that, despite the Queen presiding over honorary military appointments, the Palace has been reluctant to take responsibility.

It said a spokesperson claimed "it's not for the Palace to speak on behalf of the MoD, or on the process of assigning military commands" adding that it refused to comment on "rumour and speculation".

Now Andrew, who hands out military medals and attends ceremonial events in his military role, faces the prospect of Virginia Roberts Giuffre being interviewed on BBC's Panorama programme.

The alleged Epstein victim claims she was trafficked to London in March 2001 and forced to have sex with Andrew.

The duke, who was pictured with Ms Giuffre in Ghislaine Maxwell's London home that same year, has strenuously denied the allegations.

Ms Maxwell - who is the youngest child of disgraced media tycoon and British publisher Robert Maxwell - had a romantic relationship with Epstein when she moved to New York following her father's death in 1991.

She remained closely associated with him for decades afterwards and has been dubbed "Epstein's pimp" after US court documents alleged Ms Maxwell acted as a "madame" for him.

Andrew claims to have no memory of meeting his accuser or of the picture being taken.

Tonight's episode of Panorama will be Ms Giuffre's first major UK television interview since she claimed to have been sexually exploited by Andrew three times when she was a teenager.

It comes just days after Scotland Yard confirmed it was assisting the FBI with a wide-ranging investigation into claims of sex trafficking by Epstein and his associates.

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