Relatives of military dead must be top priority for welfare

Morning View
Morning View

A memorial to the soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will be unveiled by the Queen in London tomorrow.

The event is taking place at Victoria Gardens and then in an event afterwards at Horse Guards.

But widows and relatives of the dead feel that they have been snubbed by not being invited.

The Iraq Afghanistan service will be attended by 2,500 people. But the former DUP MLA Brenda Hale is among those who have complained at the failure to invite the loved ones of those who died.

“If it is the case that the charities have been left to decide who is to attend and who isn’t that is completely crass,” she said.

Mrs Hale is entirely right.

The MoD says that the “significant scale and 25-year period being recognised” means that attendance “must be representative in nature”.

This sounds plausible at first, given that almost 650 British service personnel died in Afghanistan and Iraq. But even so, it is not a sufficient excuse. If all bereaved families had been entitled to three tickets each, that would have meant around 1,900 such people would have been eligible.

It is likely that at least some of those eligible would not have taken up their entitlement, so there would still have been places for at least 600 dignitaries at the events.

The relatives of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country must always be among the highest priorities for welfare in any decent society.

And that means welfare in every respect – generous financial provision for dependents but also regular invitations to plum events and so on.

The armed forces covenant, which recognises that the nation has a moral obligation to members of the armed forces and their families, has not been fully implemented in Northern Ireland because of nationalist objections. This is petty and highly regrettable.