The leader of Ukip in Northern Ireland has claimed that the army is rejecting some recruits based on their parents’ or grandparents’ criminal record.
Strangford MLA David McNarry spoke out to call for “better employment opportunities in the Armed Forces to be given to the children and grandchildren of former loyalist prisoners”.
Mr McNarry added that it was “well overdue” for the military to “expunge the parental and grandparental record of former prisoners which is still traceable when either their children or grandchildren seek to join up in the British Armed Forces”.
When asked about the claims, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The MOD abides by the principles of equality and as an equal opportunities employer will consider all applications across the wide spectrum of job opportunities on a case by case basis.”
When asked if any individual has been turned down on the basis of their parents’ convictions, the spokesman said he “can not discuss individual cases” and was “not privy to vetting findings”.
Mr McNarry said it was “grossly unfair that the records of parents and grandparents are taken into account with refusal consequences for applications”.
He added: “The fact is that in many cases these unblemished young people sense the reaction to their applications so they don’t even bother to apply.
“There is a tradition in many loyalist areas of young men and young women joining the Armed Forces.
“It is a strong and proud tradition, reinforced over the years by family connections to and within the Armed Forces.
“My call is simple, but justified – let these young people have an open access to join up as does any other young person in the UK today.
“Remove the barriers of those who have served their time by not carrying forward the punishment into future generations.”
The former Ulster Unionist MLA said while “there should be no special privileges”, he wants “opportunities” to be open for young people.
“I want fair play and equality of opportunity across the board,” he said.
“This is not special treatment for loyalists – it is dealing with an obstacle against young people with a loyalist background being frozen out of a job serving their Queen and country. Most of all should there be any reason today for a young person to believe it to be a waste of time applying to ‘join up’ because of his parent’s or grandparent’s past?”