A group of Labour MPs have called on the Government to review their decision to deny Armed Forces Personnel in Northern Ireland General Service Medals.
The decision was taken after a senior military commander who asked that Ammunition Technical Officers be awarded General Service Medals for their work tackling explosive devices in Northern Ireland had his request refused.
In a letter to the Defence Minister, drafted by Tom Blenkinsop, Chair of Labour’s backbench committee on Northern Ireland, the six Labour MPs questioned the logic behind the decision not to award these medals. They ask that the differences in ‘workload and risk’ for troops serving in Northern Ireland compared to elsewhere in the United Kingdom is ‘reflected in the recognition such personnel receive’ by allowing these troops to be awarded General Service, or equivalent, medals.
The support Ammunition Technicians in Northern Ireland provide the Police Service of Northern Ireland in tackling bomb threats to civilians is vital.
The level of threat and amount of incidents which these soldiers must deal with goes beyond what is required from their colleagues serving elsewhere in the UK. They carry out this work with a professionalism and bravery that deserves to be recognised.
All communities are threatened by terrorism in Northern Ireland and recognising the increasingly difficult work these bomb squads face should be non-controversial. If there is a technicality getting in the way of giving these brave men and women the medals they deserve the government should sort it now.
Northern Ireland has experienced a recent increase in dissident terrorist activity in which police have had to deal with a bomb alert approximately every week. The six Labour MPs who signed the letter are Tom Blenkinsop, Conor McGinn, Vernon Coaker, John Spellar, Ruth Smeeth and Phil Wilson.