MEA council backs Forces covenant

Mid and East Antrim councillors, John Stewart and Mark McKinty.  INCT 02-721-CON
Mid and East Antrim councillors, John Stewart and Mark McKinty. INCT 02-721-CON

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has resolved to adopt a covenant in a bid to support members of the Armed Forces community.

The motion was proposed at the local authority’s January meeting by Councillor John Stewart, who explained the initiative is about “building understanding of the Armed Forces in our community and is a positive declaration of intent to ensure those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces and their families are not disadvantaged by that service”.

He added: “We have a rich and proud military tradition in Northern Ireland yet some of our veterans are the most vulnerable in society, men and women who served their country and now look to their country for help.

“The Armed Forces community covenant complements, at a local level, the Armed Forces covenant, which outlines the moral obligation between the nation, the government and the Armed Forces. The aim of the community covenant is to encourage local communities to support the Armed Forces community in their area and promote understanding and awareness among the public of issues affecting the Armed Forces community”.

“Any communities who formally adopt the community covenant are not bound by any legal definition or legal obligation. However as a signatory to the covenant, it opens availability to £10m per year as part of the community covenant grant scheme. These grants are open not only to military veterans and their families but also charities, community groups, schools, sport clubs and cadets associations among others.

“As a reserve forces champion for the local area this is something very close to my heart and is a motion that I know will assist the wider community. I therefore propose that Mid and East Antrim Council adopts the Community Covenant with immediate effect.”

Seconding the motion, Cllr Mark McKinty said: “As Mid and East Antrim Cadets representative I know the amount of excellent work carried out by the various associations, and the positive opportunities they offer to young people of all backgrounds. With this covenant, we can not only offer extremely valuable help to veterans and injured service personnel, but also help to play an important role in the personal and professional development of many young people throughout this borough.”

Some 33 members voted in favour of the motion, with three against.

Bannside councillor Patrice Hardy expressed concern over the wording of the motion, suggesting that it was “ambiguous” and potentially open to a legal challenge.