TUV East Londonderry Assembly candidate Jordan Armstrong, who served in the Helmand Province, says that the extension of the Armed Forces Covenant to Northern Ireland is a must.
Recalling his time in Afghanistan, as a 19-year-old, Armstrong said: “The harrowing sound of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) can send a chill down your spine.
“The sight of its destruction on human flesh, are some life-changing experiences that I and many other soldiers, witnessed during our tour in Afghanistan.”
Speaking about the Covenant, he said: “Back in May 2011 HM Government published the Armed Forces Covenant.
“It states: ‘The armed forces covenant sets out the relationship between the nation, the government, and the armed forces community. It sets out the standards for the level of services that veterans and their families expect.’
“In Northern Ireland, no such covenant exists. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s inquiry found “that due to devolution, variations exist across the regions of the UK as to how health, housing and education services are provided.” These are vital benefits that are not available in Northern Ireland.
“The Executive also failed to respond to the MOD request for a contribution to the annual report on the implementation of the Covenant.
“It was discovered that “no formal or informal discussion” had taken place because: “It requires the agreement of both the First Minister and the deputy First Minister before a matter comes to the Executive’s table”. It’s evident; therefore, that Belfast Agreement style devolution won’t deliver for our Armed Forces because Sinn Fein is calling the shots at the Executive table.
“The TUV strongly supports the extension of the Armed Forces Covenant to Northern Ireland, and believe those who were willing to sacrifice so much for their country should be treated with parity to the rest of the UK.
“Soldiers returning from deployment and suffering from mental or physical injuries need the support and help at their point of need. Soldiers should not be asked to wait for long periods of time for essential medical treatment.”