Belfast Telegraph

MLA Beattie calls for calm heads over military covenant row

By David Young

A war hero turned MLA has appealed for dissenters to "calm down" as speculation about the introduction of the Armed Forces Covenant to Northern Ireland intensified today.

Speaking after the DUP's Ian Paisley claimed his party had made progress in implementing the military covenant here, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in Afghanistan, said the covenant had actually been in operation in Northern Ireland for seven years.

"I think people are a little bit hysterical about the whole thing," he commented.

"The military covenant is to stop former soldiers, sailors and air force personnel from being disadvantaged through their service."

The military covenant represents the UK's duty of care to its armed forces, in return for the sacrifices they make in the line of duty.

But former Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay hit out at the idea of such a covenant, saying it meant preferential treatment for British soldiers in controversial areas such as housing allocation.

The drive to implement the military covenant in Northern Ireland also conflicted with powers devolved to Stormont, Mr McKay suggested on his Facebook page.

But Upper Bann MLA Mr Beattie insisted there was no question of military veterans receiving privileges of any kind because of the Armed Forces Covenant.

"My message to everybody is 'please calm down'.

"Every single one of our councils has had an armed forces champion for the last two years.

"There will be no hierarchy in our medical services, no hierarchy in our housing services, and there'll be no hierarchy in education.

"There will be - hopefully - a fair deal for veterans.

"Not preferential treatment, but fair treatment, getting what they are entitled to.

"People who say the military covenant creates preferential treatment for the military -they've just got it wrong," the former solider added.

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