War hero Doug Beattie in salvo at Executive for failing NI armed forces veterans
Armed forces veterans are being badly failed by the Executive, according to a war hero Ulster Unionist MLA.
Doug Beattie, who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in Afghanistan, spoke out following a failed motion at a Derry City and Strabane Council meeting calling on the local authority to back an initiative supporting military veterans.
Mr Beattie said he was "disappointed" at the attitude of some towards the armed forces community, and pointed out the failings of the Executive in "flagrantly disregarding" those who had served their country.
During the council meeting the UUP's Mary Hamilton put forward the motion asking it to endorse and adopt the Armed Forces Covenant.
The covenant encourages support for armed forces personnel and their families and promotes awareness of the issues they face.
However, the motion was defeated 26-9 as nationalist parties and independent councillors refused to give the motion their backing.
Mr Beattie said: "Yet again I am seeing fake outrage in Derry and Strabane District Council after all mention of armed forces veterans was removed from a motion about post traumatic stress disorder.
"I can understand some will see this as an attempt to side-line our armed forces, and in many ways I believe this is the case, and I have said so on many occasions.
"The reality is what we are seeing at Derry and Strabane District Council is systemic of what is happening in some areas of Northern Ireland; but the fact is that our Executive is indirectly and unconsciously promoting this policy of disregarding veterans.
"The armed forces are not a devolved issue and therefore it is incumbent on the devolved governments to engage with the Armed Forces Covenant working group to ensure those who serve and those who have served, including their families, are not disadvantaged by that service. Both the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales engage with the working group, yet the Northern Ireland Executive, led by the DUP, still do not. I am not sure why DUP councillors in Derry and Strabane Council were so shocked by this decision to omit the armed forces from any motion regarding PTSD.
"The DUP has been the lead party of government in Northern Ireland in partnership with Sinn Fein for the five years that the Armed Forces Covenant has been in existence, yet they have done nothing to engage with the Armed Forces Covenant working group.
"Recently I have written to Mark Lancaster MP, who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Personnel and Veterans, and asked him if the Department of Community Mental Health in Aldergrove could be used as a Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme facility in the same way as the one in Merville Barracks, Colchester, is used.
"I await his response, but if our Executive is not willing to engage and prefers instead to leave armed forces issues to the NIO, I will be nothing more than a lone voice. It is time to stop talking and start acting. This means appointing someone in the Executive to engage with the Armed Forces Covenant working group taking into account issues at grass roots level."