Army veterans let down: Doug Beattie slams Executive over help for war injured
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie says the Executive is letting down veterans by not implementing the military covenant in Northern Ireland.
The war hero described the First Ministers' response to a written question about the Armed Forces Covenant as 'staggering' in that it failed to address the needs of veterans in Northern Ireland.
Mr Beattie asked the First Ministers if the Executive would be appointing a representative to the armed forces Covenant reference group.
In response the First Ministers said: "The Armed Forces Covenant has not been adopted here and there has been no joint agreement to appoint a representative to the Armed Forces Covenant Reference Group."
Doug Beattie, who is a member of the Army Reserve, said the response was "utterly inadequate".
He said: "This answer is not only staggering, it lacks detail, coherence, humility or even a degree of understanding reality.
"Nor is it in keeping with what was outlined at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in 2013, at which the DUP was represented. At the Committee it was made clear that, bar specific devolved issues, there were no obstacles to delivering the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.
“Further to that, in June this year I received a letter from Mark Lancaster TD MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans. In it he stated, 'While it is true that the implementation of certain aspects of the Covenant does present particular challenges for Northern Ireland, implementation of the Covenant there (Northern Ireland) is progressing at pace'.”
“This was the same position that was verbally explained to myself and Andy Allen MLA by his predecessor, Anna Soubry MP, in 2014, and on multiple occasions by the former Prime Minister, David Cameron MP.
“I can further add that due to an Ulster Unionist Party initiative, the Armed Forces Community Covenant has been adopted in five of the eleven councils in Northern Ireland. There is also an Armed Forces Champion in all eleven councils, unfunded, under resourced, but working to help our armed forces community.
“This is entirely at odds with the answer which I was given by the First Ministers who seem to have exceeded their brief and slipped out of lane on Armed Forces issues.
“As the Armed Forces Covenant was instigated throughout the United Kingdom in 2011 and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, then simple geography, and the fact Armed Forces issues are not devolved, will tell you the Armed Forces Covenant is here, but the Executive is turning a blind eye to delivering it, using Section 75 as a feeble excuse for inaction.
“To that end I make a simple plea to the First Ministers. If you cannot – or worse still, will not – deliver the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland, or even participate in the Covenant Reference Group, then get out of the way and allow the Opposition to engage. Our Veterans don’t want advantage; they just want to be treated fairly and not be disadvantaged because of their service.”
The Executive Office has been contacted for a response.