‘Nonsense’ to use Section 75 as reason for not nominating to Covenant Reference Group

Doug Beattie MC MLA has reacted to Lord Ashcroft’s second follow-up report on ‘The Veterans’ Transition Review’ which was released to the Prime Minister last week.

Doug Beattie MC said:

“It will come as no surprise to many military veterans that the follow up review on veterans transitioning from military service, is particularly damning when it comes to support measures in place in Northern Ireland.  Whilst the report commends both Scotland and Wales for the progress they have made, when it comes to Northern Ireland the first paragraph of the report says it all:

Northern Ireland is the exception to the good progress being made in the remainder of the UK. Indeed, I believe it is fair to say Service Leavers and veterans suffer discrimination in NI as a result of what could be seen as determined efforts to make no provision for them.’

“The report goes on to say that the Executive has failed to show leadership in the form of nominating to the Covenant Reference Group (CRG) despite repeated encouragement from UK ministers and pleas from Assembly members including myself and Andy Allen MLA. This reference group will cost the Executive not one penny, yet it will give veterans a voice at a cabinet led group which can report annually on how the Armed Forces Covenant is helping or failing to help veterans in Northern Ireland.

“The report says that using Section 75 as a block to nominating to the CRG is – and I quote – ‘nonsense’. It is time the Executive represented all sections of our community including military veterans and stopped hiding behind Section 75.

“I wish to work with all parties in the Assembly in delivering equality for all and will be bringing forward a motion to the floor of the Assembly on Tuesday 6th December, to ask the Executive to nominate to the CRG at the earliest opportunity. The benefits of having a representative on the CRG would be an extremely positive move for veterans in Northern Ireland and it would help deal with the very real practical issues veterans experience when leaving the armed forces.

“This is not about advantage but it is about ensuring those who served in the Armed Forces are not disadvantaged due to that service and I reiterate it will be at no cost to the Executive. Therefore, I welcome Lord Ashcroft’s follow-up review and I look forward to the Executive nominating to the CRG so veterans can be represented in the same way as their counterparts in Great Britain.”

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