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War hero MLA's shock as protesting veterans dump medals at No.10

By Rebecca Black

Published 09/12/2015

Medals discarded by veterans objecting to the intervention in the Syria
Medals discarded by veterans objecting to the intervention in the Syria
Veteran: Andy Allen MLA

A Northern Ireland veteran has voiced his shock after former soldiers discarded their service medals on the Prime Minister's doorstep in protest against air strikes on Syria.

Former Royal Irish soldier Andy Allen said he could never imagine a circumstance in which he would consider throwing his medals away.

Mr Allen, who is an Ulster Unionist MLA for East Belfast, lost his legs after being badly injured while on active service in Afghanistan.

He was speaking yesterday, hours after a number of veterans discarded their decorations outside Downing Street to show their "utter disgust" at last week's decision of the House of Commons to bomb Syria in the fight against Islamic State.

The ex-service personnel who dumped their medals were members of the organisation Veterans for Peace, and had served in the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Asked whether anything would ever make him consider throwing his away, Mr Allen said "no". "My medals mean an awful lot to me," he said.

"Obviously, I have my difficulties with some policies and procedures in the Ministry of Defence, but my medals were earned through a lot of blood, sweat and tears and I would not discard them for anybody."

Daniel Lenham, who served in the RAF from 2002 to 2014, referred to his medal as a "worthless trinket".

"I'm here today to show my utter contempt and disgust at the Government's decision to, once again, attack in the Middle East," he said.

Mr Lenham insisted there was no better way of doing that than to hand back the "tokens of militarism".

He added: "If you look close enough, you can see the reflections of dead and displaced Iraqis, the burning embers of Libya and the faces of the men and women of the armed forces who never returned, or did so with lost limbs and shattered souls."

As he discarded his decoration, veteran Kirk Sollitt said: "You cannot sow bloodshed and reap peace. I no longer want these things."

Mr Allen said it was clear the veterans felt extremely strongly about Syria to take such a step. "It is not something I would do personally," he added.

"I cherish my medals and having earned my medals. But in a democratic society they have every right to do that and make their point."

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