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DUP's Foster welcomes boost to NI Army Reserves


DUP Leader Arlene Foster with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

DUP Leader Arlene Foster with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

Freddie Parkinson

DUP Leader Arlene Foster with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

An announcement that Army Reserves numbers in Northern Ireland will increase by almost 200 has been welcomed by DUP leader Arlene Foster and former soldier turned UUP MLA Doug Beattie.

Mrs Foster met with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on a flying visit to Northern Ireland during which he went to Palace Barracks in Holywood, Stormont and then on to the military base at Aldergrove.

He met members of the 38 (Irish) Brigade and personnel helping keep the community safe by delivering niche explosive ordnance disposal and search support to the PSNI.

Mr Williamson announced that 189 new Army Reserves posts will be created here, an increase of 9%, which will take overall numbers to 2,100 by the end of the year.

Northern Ireland hosts around 2,000 reserves and nearly 2,000 regular personnel.

As well as the 1,850 Army Reservists, there are 110 Royal Navy and Royal Marine Reserves and 130 Royal Auxiliary Air Force personnel.

The Defence Secretary revealed that the Reserves were extremely popular in Northern Ireland, where more than twice as many people volunteer to serve compared to the national average.

“So I’m delighted to increase the Army’s Reserve numbers in Northern Ireland, underlining the military’s commitment to the entire United Kingdom,” he said.

During his visit yesterday Mr Williamson, received an update on the newly-formed Northern Ireland Veterans Support Office (NI VSO), which acts on behalf of a group of charities as a single point of contact to provide services for veterans.

The MoD has also allocated £300,000 over five years to improve the capacity and capability of local authorities and other service providers in here  to apply for Covenant Funding.

Meanwhile, £600,000 from the LIBOR Veterans Fund has been allocated to the Somme Nursing Home in Belfast.

Mrs Foster welcomed the increased numbers.

And she pointed to a local “proud history in our armed forces”.

“Now that there will be increased opportunities in the Reserves, I would encourage people to seize them and play a part in this important element of our armed forces,” she said.

Mr Beattie, who won the Military Cross and continues to serve in the Army Reserves, added: “This is a significant increase and a substantial investment.”

Belfast Telegraph