Robin Swann’s request for army to help to deal with Covid surge accepted by Ministry of Defence
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has indicated that Sinn Fein will support the Health Minister’s move to bring in military personnel to help the heath service.
Medically-trained members of the military are to be brought in to assist Northern Ireland’s health service in the fight against Covid-19, Robin Swann confirmed on Wednesday.
His request for military assistance was accepted the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to help ease pressure at a number of hospitals here.
The Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) agreement will see over 100 medical technicians provide nursing support to a number of local trusts during the current stage of the Covid 19 pandemic - this MACA support is also being provided in other UK regions.
Sinn Fein’s northern leader Ms O’Neill told RTE News that her party’s priority is to “save lives” and “we do not rule out any measures”.
“Any effort to make the threat posed by Covid-19 into a green and orange issue is divisive and a distraction,” she added.
Speaking at Wednesday’s Covid-19 briefing, Mr Swann the “background work” has been done when asked if military personnel may be targeted by dissident republicans.
“For any of those who would seek to make a target out of our health service at this point in time I would say that they would be better not being here when they see the pressures that are on our communities,” he stated.
“They’re affecting every home, every community - no matter what race, religion or political persuasion.
“If anybody sees this as an opportunity to make a political statement or even target any individual within our health service, I say it would be a shame on them and a shame on anybody that has anything to do with them.”
Mr Swann added that he “sincerely hopes” that the use of the military will not cause any friction between Stormont’s political parties.
“I understand the political presentational challenges it may bring, but what I will say is that anybody should only see this as the opportunity to support our health service at a critical time and that’s why I made the request that I did,” he continued.
“It’s not to make any political point or any presentational point either.
“It’s about providing that critical support to our health service who are under pressure and will remain under pressure for the next number of weeks.”
DUP MLA Pam Cameron said the request for military assistance was "a sobering reminder of the pressure on our health service”.
"It is absolutely right that all sources of assistance are being utilised in the battle against Covid-19," added the vice-chair of Stormont's Health Committee.
"However, the fact that military personnel are now required within our hospitals is a sobering reminder of the threat posed by this virus and the continuing pressure on our health service.
"As a party we have always been clear that any necessary military assistance should be availed of just as it has been in other parts of the UK and in other countries.
"No-one would welcome the fact that it has been deemed necessary to make this request, but everyone will welcome the assistance these personnel can bring and hope they can ease some of the pressure on our incredible health service staff."