People who leave military service “suffer discrimination” in Northern Ireland, according to a follow up into a report by Lord Ashcroft that found the strict equality rules in place here a barrier to adopting the UK Military Covenant here.
The original report, titled ‘The Veterans Transition Review’ found the strict equality legislation in Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act to be a barrier to the full implementation of the UK’s military covenant, which sets out the relationship between the state and the armed forces.
A follow-up to that report, released to the Prime Minister last week, has found use of Section 75 to justify the NI Executive’s failure to appoint a representative on the group who decide how Military Covenant funding is used to be ‘a nonsense’.
The NI Executive has yet to appoint a representative to the Covenant Reference Group (CRG) and the UUP has tabled a motion calling on the Executive to do that in light of the latest report’s findings.
Doug Beattie MC MLA, reacting to the follow-up report, said: “It will come as no surprise to many military veterans that the follow up review on veterans transitioning from military service is particularly damning when it comes to support measures in place in Northern Ireland. When it comes to Northern Ireland the first paragraph of the report says it all: ‘Northern Ireland is the exception to the good progress being made in the remainder of the UK. Indeed, I believe it is fair to say Service Leavers and veterans suffer discrimination in NI as a result of what could be seen as determined efforts to make no provision for them.’
“It is time the Executive represented all sections of our community including military veterans and stopped hiding behind Section 75.”
He added: “The report says that using Section 75 as a block to nominating to the CRG is – and I quote – ‘nonsense’.
“I wish to work with all parties in the Assembly in delivering equality for all and will be bringing forward a motion to the floor of the Assembly on Tuesday, December 6, to ask the Executive to nominate to the CRG at the earliest opportunity.
“The benefits of having a representative on the CRG would be an extremely positive move for veterans in Northern Ireland and it would help deal with the very real practical issues veterans experience when leaving the armed forces.
“This is not about advantage but it is about ensuring those who served in the Armed Forces are not disadvantaged due to that service and I reiterate it will be at no cost to the Executive. Therefore, I welcome Lord Ashcroft’s follow-up review and I look forward to the Executive nominating to the CRG so veterans can be represented.”
See Morning View, page 20