A combat veteran with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been living in a tent in the Mournes for eight months, UUP MLA Doug Beattie has said.
Mr Beattie, who is a Military Cross-winning veteran, said the man’s plight is indicative of the failure of Northern Ireland society to give adequate support to veterans.
The UUP MLA is calling for improved mental health services in particular.
Mr Beattie said: “We as a society are still failing veterans in Northern Ireland, either through an imbalanced justice system or by not recognising the unique problems they face.
“This can be viewed in the starkest terms when seen through the eyes of one veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD 13 years ago.”
He said that the man in question found himself homeless, and coping with PTSD symptoms including “hyper-vigilance”.
Mr Beattie said he is now “living in a tent in the Mournes and has been doing so for the last eight months”.
He added: “His partner wants him home, his children want him home, his condition will only improve when he is home, yet none of this is being taken into account when assessing his case.
“He spent Christmas in his tent alone while his family sat at home...
“This is not a new story but I will not stop highlighting it to show the desperate plight some veterans face.
“Recently I agreed to accompany this individual as he attended a regular contact visit with his children under supervision, and I have now been able to get him to agree to go for help for his PTSD.”
Mr Beattie urged the newly-appointed Military Covenant representative for Northern Ireland, Brenda Hale, to focus on mental health.
He said: “As Brenda Hale MLA begins to the process of representing the Armed Forces community here in Northern Ireland – and she needs time to bed in – I hope she will focus on the Defence Community Mental Health (DCMH) facility in Thiepval Barracks. I urge her to lobby for funding to enhance this facility .”
Mr Beattie had spent 27 years in the regular Army, and was in the reserves after that until having to resign last year when he became an MLA candidate.
He also won the NATO Meritorious Service Medal for peacekeeping work in Bosnia.