Nelson explains his opposition to Armed Forces veterans proposal

A CRAIGAVON SDLP council member has suggested that the NI Assembly - rather than local councils - should take on the responsibility of supporting veterans of the British Armed Forces.

Councillor Joe Nelson, in a statement, added that is why he did not support an Ulster Unionists proposal at the council’s latest meeting for the adoption of a community covenant. It was tabled by Deputy Mayor Arnold Hatch who said it would “open the door to our council applying for support for service personnel from a UK central fund worth £30 million over the next four years”.

Mr Nelson went on, “It was wrongly reported in the local press that I suggested that the British Government and the Royal British Legion should take on the responsibility for veterans, but it is my recollection that this statement was made by Sinn Fein.

I, in fact, said that I couldn’t see why council should pass a motion in favour of a community covenant when the Assembly had yet to enact legislation to bring forward the ‘Armed Forces Covenant’ proper or the ‘Veteran’s Bill’ as it is more commonly known. This Bill has been passed at Westminster and at the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies.

“The spirit of the motion singled out veterans in particular as being disenfranchised, but it was my view that there was no hierarchy of disenfranchisement, and that there were hundreds of disenfranchised people in our borough mainly because of the continuing government cuts and that this would get much worse with the proposed Welfare Reforms. I also stated that veterans who felt disenfranchised were more than welcome at our constituency office where we would offer them whatever assistance we could.”

In the event, the Hatch motion was adopted by the council, with the two main unionist parties in favour, and SF and SDLP opposing the move.