Belfast Telegraph

Ex-members of RUC and Army call for special unit to deal with health issues

By Rebecca Black

Retired veterans have called for a centre to provide medical care and support for their colleagues in confidence to be set up in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Crown Forces Veterans for Justice (NICFVFJ) was set up by retired soldiers, police officers and prison officers last year to advocate for what they have described as an "abused sector".

They are to meet DUP leader Arlene Foster to emphasise the critical need for facilities and funding for veterans, warning that a peak of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cases that may have affected many who went through traumatic experiences in the Troubles is yet to be reached.

The NICFVFJ has also urged families of murdered members of the military to come forward and seek answers for what happened to their loved ones, claiming that the quest for justice appears to it to be very one-sided.

It held a rally at Belfast City Hall last year to protest at how it feels veterans have been treated by the judicial system.

That feeling was heightened last week when a judge ruled that two ex-soldiers are to stand trial charged with the murder of Official IRA man Joe McCann in Belfast 46 years ago.

Founder Mel Brown (51), who served with the UDR, said the members want to work towards taking judicial review of decisions to prosecute former soldiers.

She added that she feels ex-military members have not just suffered neglect, but abuse, and have been "wilfully ignored".

Wilfie Brown (53), who was in the Royal Irish for 22 years, said there have been numerous concessions to terrorists, including the early release of prisoners and comfort letters.

He pointed to the millions of pounds of Peace money from Europe, some of which has gone to groups which included some members of staff who were formerly involved with terrorist groups. By contrast, he told the Belfast Telegraph, former members of the security forces who protected the public from terrorists have been "thrown to the wolves".

He added: "There have been four agreements and the military has never been top of the priority list.

"There are around 141,000 veterans in Northern Ireland, including RUC, UDR, RIR and the Prison Service, as well as their families.

"We gave years of our lives to protecting the public, and now we are thrown to the wolves.

"There is such a lack of understanding of the torment.

"It's (flashbacks of the Troubles) on our TVs coming into our living rooms, going over the many atrocities we attended.

"Half of my life I was prepared to give my life for Queen and country.

"Then suddenly they (the military) upped and went, and left no facilities."

Mr Brown said many former members of the military do not seek medical help for fear of speaking out to people they do not know.

"Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt talked about a Maze centre for the military, but we want to emphasise that it must be for the military alone," he said.

"As a former soldier, you feel you can't just walk into any health centre and start talking about your service, the things you have seen and gone through."

Former RUC officer Davy Crooks said the group has heard from many retired servants of the Crown who find it difficult to rebuild their lives after their service.

He made the point it is impossible to "rebrand", and admitted he had not had a job since he retired 16 years ago due to this reason.

Belfast Telegraph

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