Northern Ireland needs to embrace the Military Covenant

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

An alarming report has found that veterans of military service “suffer discrimination” in Northern Ireland.

The findings have been issued by Lord Ashcroft, in a follow-on to his previous report on the matter.

The reasons for his conclusions are not hard to uncover.

Strict equality rules in Northern Ireland have been a barrier to adopting the UK Military Covenant here. In simple terms, nationalists are not prepared to accept the covenant.

It is worth reflecting on the context in which this is happening.

In most of the western world, there is growing respect for people who have put on a uniform and served their country.

There is a growing appreciation of the fact that the overwhelming bulk of the population does not risk life and limb for the security of society as a whole.

In America, veterans now get preference for public jobs and are respected in other ways such as being allowed to board passenger planes first.

In Great Britain, there is a similar growth in respect for veterans.

It is deeply regrettable that such an approach is not permitted in Northern Ireland, where military men and women have been killed or maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.

But it is no surprise either. After all, the levers of the state are being used to pursue alleged security force wrongs during the Troubles, and to push the sense that the state and terrorists were equally to blame.

Doug Beattie MLA, himself an veteran of battlefields, is to be applauded in his plan to bring a Stormont motion on the covenant.

It is to be hoped that common sense prevails and military personnel in the Province are accorded the respect they so clearly deserve.