Army hero: My pride at council vote for aid to veterans
An Army hero turned politician has spoken of his pride that his council has become the first in Northern Ireland to adopt the Armed Forces Community Covenant.
Military Cross winner Doug Beattie led the initiative at Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council which was passed without dissent yesterday.
Instead, councillors from Sinn Fein and SDLP agreed to abstain rather than oppose the motion.
The Armed Forces Community Covenant will allow council to apply to access funds set aside from bank fines for local initiatives to help former service personnel reintegrate into society.
The UK-wide fund has been running for three years and has allocated £11m to projects supporting the armed forces and their communities, although Armagh council is the first in Northern Ireland to sign up.
Mr Beattie welcomed the vote and praised nationalists for agreeing not to vote against it.
"For many it was seen as a pragmatic decision given the council has a unionist majority but in reality it was a brave decision," he said.
"It proved that there are those in our society in positions of influence who's views may well be polar opposite, yet they understand the importance of allowing communities to pursue what is important to them."
Mr Beattie said signing up will give access to the Community Covenant Grant scheme - a fund of £10m per year for the next 25 years.
"It is designed to help those serving soldiers, veterans and their families who are in need," he said. "It promotes remembrance, understanding and integration with the local community."