Parties clash over veterans move

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Derry City Council has voted to appoint an armed forces advocate to help former and serving members of the British armed forces access welfare payments.

The decision was taken at the monthly meeting of the Council’s policy and resources committee in the Council headquarters, Strand Road, yesterday afternoon.

A delegation from the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee, a body which represents 900,000 former British military personnel - including those who served in the North during the Troubles - addressed councillors to ask for their support.

Ahead of the meeting, Sinn Féin councillor Barney O’Hagan criticised the decision to invite the delegation, describing the move as “totally wrong”.

Colr. O’Hagan said it would be wring of Council to support the group - which is appointed by the British government’s Secretary of State for Defence - while families of people killed by the British army in the North are still waiting for justice.

Following the presentation at yesterday’s meeting, DUP alderman Joe Millar proposed that Council support the group’s call to appoint an armed forces advocate to help British military veterans access welfare benefits.

Colr O’Hagan then outlined his party’s objection to the suggestion and said Sinn Féin would not be supporting the proposal.

SDLP group leader Gerard Diver seconded alderman Miller’s proposal and said his party would be supporting the call for Derry City Council to support an advocate.

Colr. O’Hagan called for a recorded vote to be held on the matter and the proposal was carried by seven votes to two with support from the DUP and SDLP, and Sinn Féin opposing.

The issue will now have to go before the monthly meeting of Derry City Council to be ratified.