First as council signs the forces covenant

Signatories, Aldermen and Councillors who attended the signing of the community covenant for the armed forces.
Signatories, Aldermen and Councillors who attended the signing of the community covenant for the armed forces.

An initiative to support members of the armed forces in gaining access to essential services was launched by the council on Monday .

The ‘community covenant’ will promote a greater understanding of the issues affecting service personnel and their families – such as securing school places for children – through a “voluntary pledge of mutual support”.

Lord Mayor Darryn Causby said the covenant was not about anyone gaining advantage.

“Simple things such as access to housing, education or healthcare, things the rest of us take for granted, can be fraught with obstacles for those coming home after serving abroad,” he said.

The motion was brought before the council by Ulster Unionist and Military Cross holder Doug Beattie.

Mr Beattie praised councillors from Sinn Fein and SDLP for not objecting to his motion when it came before the council earlier this year.

He said, “The headline for many was it passed, but what was more extraordinary was that it passed with no objections. The Sinn Féin and SDLP councillors choosing to abstain rather than vote against.

“For many it was seen as a pragmatic decision given the council has a unionist majority but in reality it was a brave decision. It proved that there are those in our society in positions of influence, who’s views may well be polar opposite, yet they understand the importance of allowing communities to pursue what is important to them. The Armed Forces Covenant is important to the unionist community.”

Mr Causby added, “Signing up to this covenant is the council’s promise to help with these issues in any way that we can, which is of course the same thing that we would do for anyone else within our community.

“It is important to stress this is not about giving anyone an advantage in accessing goods, facilities or services. It is merely to ensure there is no disadvantage.”

The community covenant was signed by representatives from NI Garrison Support Unit, the Reserve Forces & Cadets Association NI, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Royal British Legion.