Double amputee MLA Andy Allen 'humbled and proud' to win national award for helping other veterans
Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen - who is a double amputee after being wounded with the Royal Irish in Afghanistan - has won a national award for his work helping other veterans.
Mr Allen said he felt humbled after being honoured with the Inspiration gong at the 2018 Soldiering On Awards, which aim to celebrate achievements among serving and past members of the armed forces.
Mr Allen lost both legs and was left visually impaired after an IED blast in Afghanistan when he was still a teenager.
On his recovery, he helped to establish AA Veterans Support, a charity to help others who have served, and has also moved into politics, representing east Belfast.
"I am truly humbled to win the Soldiering On award - it really means a lot to me - especially looking back on how far I have come, after being injured," he said.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family, friends and the wider public for their unwavering support, through not only the good, but also the difficult times.
"Without them, I would not have been able to achieve all that I have.
"I would also like to pay tribute to each of my fellow finalists, whose stories have further inspired me. They have each achieved a lot, and helped many others in their time of need."
His fellow UUP MLA and veteran Doug Beattie also extended his congratulations.
"I knew Andy Allen when he still had his legs and was a young fierce Ranger in 1 R IRISH willing to do his part for his country," he said.
"Andy was seriously wounded in action in 2008 but that has not stopped him striving to be the best he possibly can be. At the same time he has helped veterans through the charity he set up and his constituents as an MLA.
"I am not surprised he has won the Inspiration category at the Soldier On Awards because Andy is an inspiration.
"I am proud to say I served with him in Afghanistan, work alongside him as an Ulster Unionist MLA and can genuinely call him a friend."
Prime Minister Theresa May sent a message of congratulations to the ceremony, which took place in London on Friday night.
"I am delighted to send a message of support for this year's Soldiering On Awards," she said. "The event provides a fantastic platform to give recognition to the extraordinary achievements of our Service personnel, veterans and the groups, businesses and charities that support the Armed Forces community. Their efforts are invaluable and it is only right that their work is appreciated and celebrated."
There were 12 award categories in all, celebrating achievements from sporting excellence to business enterprise and healthcare and rehabilitation.