Help for Heroes helps charity 'snub' sparks protest
One of Northern Ireland's largest engineering firms is at the centre of a row over an alleged snub of a military charity.
A protest was mounted yesterday outside the FG Wilson plant in Monkstown after the company declined to consider Help for Heroes among the nominated organisations to benefit from their annual fundraising efforts.
The charity raises money for injured soldiers. Last year Macmillan Cancer Support was FG Wilson's nominated charity.
Phil Hamilton, a Newtownabbey community worker and former Army Air Corps soldier who has helped raise thousands of pounds for Help for Heroes, said people were deeply offended by the decision.
"Each year FG Wilson employees nominate a charity and employees, supported by the company, raise funds for it," he said.
"The idea to nominate Help for Heroes came forward from employees at the Monkstown factory. However, they were told a week later that their nomination could not be accepted. When they asked 'why' they got an email saying that the company seeks to promote a neutral working environment and they do not promote anything that can be potentially divisive along political or religious grounds and that it can't accept requests from political or religious organisations
"Help for Heroes helps injured soldiers. It is not political."
Mr Hamilton called on the company to overturn its decision.
"No-one is saying Help for Heroes should be the chosen charity, but it should be allowed to go to the charity committee like any other nominated causes," he added.
"In Newtownabbey there are a lot of families who have relatives serving or who have served in Afghanistan. People are angry this was turned down. This is not going to go away."
Among those to have thrown their weight behind the protests is former UDR soldier and DUP councillor in the area, Robert Hill. "Help for Heroes is a lifeline for soldiers and their families. For FG Wilson to say it is a political organisation is unbelievable."
In a statement, Help for Heroes declined to be drawn into the row.