Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Local councils must help protect our soldiers

IT is appalling that, due to infighting and a Sinn Fein veto, the Assembly has failed to implement the Military Covenant in Northern Ireland.

Throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, the Military Covenant protects serving soldiers and veterans from being disadvantaged as a result of their service.

It is shameful that local soldiers and veterans have been denied the same protection from discrimination enjoyed by their colleagues across the UK.

Having spoken to reservists from across Northern Ireland, many of whom have struggled with housing issues and employment, these issues cannot be ignored any longer.

While agreement at Stormont seems unlikely, there is nothing to stop local councils independently adopting a community covenant.

In July 2013, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, stated that he would "like to see local authorities in Northern Ireland, where they want to, adopting a community covenant, but that pressing for this from London was not the best way of achieving this."

I therefore call on councils across Northern Ireland to take the lead role in establishing a community covenant partnership. This step will enable groups to apply for funds in order to encourage local communities to support the armed forces community in their area.

NEIL McNICKLE

NI21

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