Hale calls for need to give Forces community a voice

Lagan Valley DUP MLA Brenda Hale has said the voice of the Armed Forces community should be heard at the highest level of Government.

The Assembly today put on record the need to deliver for the veterans’ community in Northern Ireland and pushed for a representative to sit on the UK-wide Armed Forces Covenant Reference Group.

Mrs Hale said, “Today I was not only speaking in the Assembly as an elected representative, but as an Armed Forces widow and NI Ambassador for ABF, the Soldiers Charity.

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“I am painfully aware of how much veterans and their families have contributed and sacrificed.

“At present the Armed Forces Covenant Reference Group meet with no input from Northern Ireland and that must change. This part of the UK has played a significant role in our Armed Forces and it is important to make sure the voice of veterans, those widowed and their families are heard, both here at Stormont and at Westminster.

“There is an open invitation for the Northern Ireland Executive to join the Reference Group and I am very pleased that my Party Leader, First Minister Arlene Foster stated her support for myself to be appointed to the group. A letter has already been sent to the Cabinet Office and we are currently awaiting a response.”

The DUP MLA added, “Veteran’s issues can be complex and it is vital that they have help and support, including proper access to education for their children, housing and health services.

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“The service our Armed Forces give to the Crown and the brave sacrifice they make for our freedom is something that should not mean destitution and lack of help for the families left behind.

“I welcome the support from the Assembly today for a representative from Northern Ireland to sit on the AF Covenant Reference Group. I have worked tirelessly with my party colleagues on behalf of my community and I will continue to do so.”

Mrs Hale’s husband served with the British Army and was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.

Hale then started to speak to the Ministry of Defence on behalf of other war widows.

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He died shortly afterwards in Camp Bastion on August 13, 2009. He was married for 22 years to Brenda and the pair had two daughters, Tori and Alex. He had already retrieved two of his men from the danger zone and had gone back for the third when an explosion occurred. and he was killed

From August 2015, she has been a Political Member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

When David Cameron was Prime Mininster Hale spoke to him and Iain Duncan Smith on the importance of amending legislation so that ex servicemen and women can have access to better support in terms of helping them find employment after service or in dealing with the aftermath of serving - whether that is through counselling or psychiatric treatment.