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DUP Donaldson wants explanation for Iraq memorial snub

By Tony Jones

A DUP MP has demanded that the Ministry of Defence explain why families of servicemen killed in Iraq or Afghanistan were left off the guest list for a ceremony to unveil a new national memorial to their loved ones.

It is understood that some Ulster based families were invited, while others appear to have not been.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it was very disappointing for those who had been left feeling snubbed over a memorial in tribute to their loved ones.

"The MoD has either overlooked inviting the families, which would be extraordinary, or has deliberately taken a decision to restrict the numbers at the event," he said.

"In either case I think it is highly regrettable that widows and families were not invited.

"We've raised it with the MoD and we're asking for an early explanation as to why the families were not invited."

Former DUP MLA Brenda Hale, whose husband Captain Mark Hale was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, leaving behind his wife and two daughters, accused the MoD of failing to understand the plight of the bereaved.

She said she was "floored" to hear the event was not open to all bereaved families from the conflicts.

"They have not been given the option to attend, or arrangements made for them to see the service," she said.

Former soldier and now Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie - who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in Afghanistan - said he does not believe it was a deliberate snub.

"I just think the MoD dropped the ball on this one," he said.

"They should have had more thought and human concern for the bereaved."

The Queen led the nation yesterday in central London, praising the dedication and contribution of the hundreds of thousands of people who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The sculpture, by Paul Day, also marks the contribution made by civilians in the conflicts.

It is formed of two stone monoliths and a bronze medallion.

Its unveiling in Victoria Embankment Gardens followed a service for 2,500 veterans on Horse Guards Parade.

More than 800 UK military personnel and civilians died in the three wars.

Tony Blair's presence at the ceremony angered several people. Some guests said his ticket could have gone to a bereaved parent. Former prime ministers David Cameron and Sir John Major were also there.

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