Belfast Telegraph

'NI must get benefits of Armed Forces Covenant'

By Victoria Leonard

The DUP-Tory agreement - which commits the Government to implementing the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland - has exposed divisions between the parties here.

Veterans had previously complained that the Military Covenant is not being fully implemented in Northern Ireland.

It entitles former members of the Armed Forces in Great Britain - especially for those who have been injured or bereaved - to some priority medical treatment and assistance with housing and school places.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie - a Military Cross recipient - said veterans here will be watching to see what the DUP has agreed to ensure the Covenant is fully implemented and delivered in Northern Ireland.

He said: "In the six years that the Armed Forces Covenant has been operating throughout the UK, veterans in Northern Ireland have been promised they would receive equality of treatment with their colleagues in GB.

"What is absolutely essential now - and key to promoting confidence within the veterans' community - is that the DUP outlines the delivery mechanisms that it has negotiated with the Government and how they propose to deliver on devolved matters, such as housing, health and education, because it is the delivery that has been failing up until now.

"The fact is that the Armed Forces are not a devolved issue, and the Covenant already operates across the entire United Kingdom. It is already being implemented but how it is delivered needs to change to ensure that our veterans receive the support they deserve."

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams pledged to "resolutely oppose any attempt to give preferential treatment to British forces, either in terms of legacy or the provision of public services".

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