The idea of giving military medals to builders and tradesmen who worked on Army bases would spark an “adverse reaction” from former personnel, said a unionist MP.
Ex-UDR soldier Jeffrey Donaldson was responding to one of the UUP’s newly-announced policies, in which it pledged to campaign for all civilians “who served on Operation Banner or in support of Operation Banner” to be decorated.
The UUP said that this should done either with the military’s General Service Medal (NI) or a new, specially minted medal.
Operation Banner is the formal name for the military deployment of UK forces to Northern Ireland security mission.
Asked to clarify exactly who would be entitled to medals under its policy, the UUP said: “Construction workers, maintenance staff, service providers including various tradesmen.
“Any civilian contracted by the military to sustain its operations and therefore were under threat.”
Mr Donaldson, Lagan Valley DUP MP, said: “There’s no precedent that I’m aware of for an operational medal awarded to the military to be also given to civilians.
“We in the DUP would have no objection to a special medal being created to recognise the contribution made by many civilians whether working with the police or the Army, or in other roles in support of the security situation in Northern Ireland.”
He said it would not be right to “make an equivalence” between the security forces’ work, and that of civilians.
He added: “I don’t believe it would be appropriate for a military medal to be awarded to civilian staff, and I think there would be an adverse reaction from those who served in the military in Northern Ireland if were that to be the case.”