Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Northern Ireland soldiers receive bravery medals

Three Northern Ireland soldiers have received bravery honours from the Queen.

The soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment, which was at the centre of a false medal citation investigation, were given the Military Cross for the courage they showed while fighting in Afghanistan last year.

Citations for Ranger Alan Owens, Sergeant Stephen McConnell and Captain Graham Rainey had to be double checked after another senior officer, Major Robert Armstrong, was arrested amid allegations he exaggerated his own bravery to receive a medal.

But investigators concluded there was no doubt that they fully deserved their honours.

Ranger Owens, from Portadown, received his Military Cross at Buckingham Palace yesterday from the Princess Royal for “courageous individual actions” in the face of the enemy while acting as a mentor for the Afghan National Army.

Ballymoney man Sergeant McConnell demonstrated “decisive leadership and outstanding bravery” when he led his men through a large and well-co-ordinated Taliban ambush.

And Captain Rainey, from Bangor, was recognised for his “distinguished leadership and tactical skill” while mentoring Afghan soldiers.

Speaking after the ceremony the officer said he would not comment on Major Armstrong as the military investigation was ongoing. But he said: “I think every individual is surprised when his name is put forward for an honour like this.

“I don't think anything will detract from being recognised by your superiors.”

Cpt Rainey added: “When you come into contact with the enemy you don't really think about your personal safety.

“You're dealing with situations where you're trying to react quickly and make decisions and tactically make sure you get it right.”

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