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Families sent armour and clothes to soldiers in Iraq amid fears over poor kit, claims DUP MP

By Kate Ferguson

Published 15/07/2016

Anger: DUP MP Jim Shannon
Anger: DUP MP Jim Shannon

Soldiers in Iraq were sent body armour by relatives over fears the Ministry of Defence had failed to issue the proper kit, a DUP MP said yesterday.

Demanding better support for troops, Jim Shannon said families also forwarded boots and warm clothes to loved ones.

Speaking in a Commons debate on the Chilcot report, which highlighted "serious equipment shortfalls" at the beginning of the invasion, the Strangford MP added: "We can't keep sending forces into places they are not prepared to go into.

"I wasn't a member of this House at the time of the Iraq War, but I've had constituents who were sending socks, boots, food and, on one occasion, body armour to people in Iraq.

"There is something wrong when our people serve across the seas and we have to send them stuff that the Army should be giving them when they go out.

"There needs to be an honest conversation. A lot of what went wrong can be explained by the lack of resources - we haven't got the capacity to fight on so many fronts anymore."

Mr Shannon also warned that veterans of Iraq and other wars were left without support after be given their marching orders by the Army days before becoming eligible for full pensions.

He mentioned the case of an Army Major who was told he was being made redundant the same day he received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for service that had seen him fight in the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"These are some of the people who fought for Queen and country, who did their bit, and when they needed the support it fell short, and it fell short with a vengeance," the DUP man said.

"We must take care of our veterans. We must make sure they receive absolutely first-class service from the State, are offered the best and get the best as well.

"Are we going to have a statistic some day when more Iraq veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the conflict?"

Conservative MP Philip Davies, raising the deaths of two of his constituents because of equipment shortages, added: "We should never, ever again send our Armed Forces into combat without properly equipping them for the task in hand."

Mark Durkan, SDLP MP for Foyle, stressed the importance of MPs challenging the Prime Minister when a case for military action was being made.

"If there is any lesson from all of this, it has to be that never again should anybody mistake despatch box certitude for certainty on key and grave matters," he told the Commons.

Mr Durkan also attacked the way in which evidence was presented to MPs in the run-up to the Iraq War.

"Nobody can say that it is not the case that there was a duplicity in presentation in this throughout," he said.

The SDLP man additionally pointed to the Commons debate on whether military action should be taken in Syria as evidence that lessons from the Iraq war were yet to be learned.

"There were points in the debates on Syria where some of us who were asking questions about the Government's proposals were being told and were being advised that we should just listen to what the Prime Minister was saying," he explained.

"There were people here in the last debate who had not learned the lessons from the Iraq War, because they were saying, 'If our Prime Minister is telling us this, then we should do it and we should proceed'.

"Therefore, it is clear that in this House we do need to do much more to learn the lessons of all of this."

Belfast Telegraph

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