Anger at veterans meeting

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Sinn Féin councillor Barney O’Hagan has described the decision to invite a group representing current and former members of the British armed forces to a meeting of Derry City Council “totally wrong.”

A deputation from the Northern Ireland Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee will address the monthly meeting of Derry City Council’s policy and resources committee to ask councillors to appoint an ‘armed forces advocate’ to liaise with the group.

The NI Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee was set up to help veterans and their families access welfare schemes.

As well as representing veterans - including those who served in the North throughout the Troubles - the group also represents serving British military personnel.

Colr. O’Hagan said he would not be supporting the call for an armed forces advocate and said it is “inappropriate” for the group - which is appointed by the British secretary of state for defence - to have been invited to address Council.

“This group is appointed by the British Secretary of State for defence and it is our view that it would fit him much better to open up the files on British military activity in the North.

“Notwithstanding the contested nature of the North, there are a number of families in this city who have been directly affected by the actions of the British armed forces who are still seeking justice and the Ministry of Defence is placing obstacles in their way,” he said.

The Sinn Féin colr. said he believed the invite to the group would anger victims groups.

“Given that the British armed forces were protagonists in the conflict in Ireland, I don’t feel it is appropriate for groups like this to be invited to address councils, particularly in cities like Derry. It is totally wrong and ill-thought out.

“Derry City Council has more important things to be getting on with in terms of the issues pertaining to the economy across the Council area.” he said.