I have read with interest the series of articles on the plight of veterans in Northern Ireland, which would indicate that many are in a serious predicament of helplessness; abandoned by the powers that be, suicidal because of mental health and other issues, homeless, destitute, and downtrodden.
While there may be some individuals who fit this profile, which is very regrettable, some balance should be struck to reassure your readers that the vast majority of veterans and their dependants, who are of course citizens of the country, seem to be well supported by the statutory services and the very large charitable sector.
The real newsworthy issue would seem to be the difficulty in navigating through the maze of support available and ensuring that each individual case is properly “owned” and seen through to a satisfactory conclusion.
I write a one associated with a veteran who has been involved in this sector and, while acknowledging the imperfection of some of the myriad welfare systems in place, would challenge many of the assertions and assumptions quoted in the series of articles for the very reason that there are too many misconceptions cited; partly because accurate records are not necessarily held to allow riposte and that here in Northern Ireland, may I gently suggest, we can have a tendency to see the cup half empty when it suits our purpose.
The facts are that we have a Health and Social Care service (under pressure, granted) which is first world in sophistication.
The nation has launched its commitment to armed forces through the declaration of a covenant to ensure no disadvantage while the government, notably the Ministry of Defence, has a veterans’ agency (Veterans UK) which provides financial and other welfare support to those suffering from service-related conditions.
The veterans of Operation Banner, especially those who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment or Royal Irish Regiment, have their own bespoke aftercare service and there is a whole range of national charities represented “on the ground” such as the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, Help for Heroes and so on.
Plus the victims and survivors sector includes many groups which focus on support to ex-military or ex-police members.
The challenge is to coordinate these considerable resources into a more efficient and effective solution to each welfare case to ensure that shocking stories such as those you carried, and highlighting of worrying trends which may be overstated, can be adequately addressed and the issues placed in proper context.
Mr WM, Co Antrim