Brenda Hale interview: Why we need military covenant in NI

Brenda Hale MLA at Stormont
Brenda Hale MLA at Stormont

The DUP MLA and military widow Brenda Hale, in an interview with the News Letter, explains why she feels the military covenant should be extended to Northern Ireland.

“If Westminster is sending our troops to war then it should also ensure that service personnel are given the same support offered to troops under the armed forces covenant in England,” she explains.

See main interview here.

“What we need to see for this to happen is for section 75 of the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 altered so that troops and their families in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are given the same levels of support troops based in England currently enjoy.

“Military families are not asking for millions of pounds, they are not asking for anything outrageous or excessive, they are just asking for equality of treatment.”

Hale believes that the Government has not done enough to recognise the very real suffering of military men and women who return from conflict zones suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after the horror of what they have witnessed - with many veterans requiring counselling and psychiatric treatment as well as struggling to adjust to life with serious injuries and finding it extremely hard to re-integrate into society after becoming acclimatised to the rigours of life on patrol. The British Government defines the armed forces covenant as “setting out the relationship between the nation, the government and the armed forces.

“It recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the armed forces and their families, and it establishes how they should expect to be treated.”

The covenant’s two principles are that: “the armed forces community should not face disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services” and, secondly, “special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved”.

Currently the covenant has ensured things like funding for prosthetics technology for those injured in conflict, doubling council tax relief for each service man, and providing a special service for the children of personnel which allows schools to provide them with important pastoral care.

A Defence Discount Service, which offers a privilege card entitling members of the armed forces community to a range of discounts on goods and services has also been introduced. None of these benefits are available to military families here because the Defence of the Realm Act only enforces the relevant covenant in England and not in any of the other jurisdictions that make up the UK.