Councillors clash again as Sinn Fein objects to Barr ‘veterans’ proposal

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon councillors have again clashed over a bid to include “veterans and blue light services” in the council’s response to a draft mental health strategy.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 4:52 pm
Councillor Glenn Barr.

Banbridge Councillor, Alderman Glenn Barr, had proposed the inclusion at a previous committee meeting.

But at the monthly meeting Sinn Fein Councillor Keith Haughian asked for the term “veterans and blue light services” to be removed.

Cllr Haughian said, “At the committee meeting, politics was brought in to it and we are in danger of creating a hierarchy of people whose mental health should be given attention.”

Cllr Haughian said he was not trying to suggest that veterans and blue light services should not have access to mental health services, rather, he was concerned the response would highlight one single group, not society as a whole.

“I propose we reverse the decision and keep politics of out this,” he said.

“Alderman Barr’s amendment should be removed from the draft mental health strategy response.

“No group is highlighted in that particular document and we shoulnd’t be singling one out ourselves.”

The proposal was seconded by his party colleague Councillor Paul Duffy but Alderman Barr confirmed he would not be changing his amendment.

“It is quite clear who is making this political,” said Alderman Barr. “It is not just the British Army it is also the RAF and the Navy. I will not be withdrawing it.”

A recorded vote followed and saw all 16 members of the SDLP and Sinn Fein present vote in favour of Cllr Haughian’s proposal while the 23 members of the Alliance Party, DUP and UUP and one independent voted against it.

Following this vote, Councillor Tennyson said his party was “supportive of the essence of Alderman Barr’s amendment” as “particular groups face particular challenges”.

Cllr Tennyson proposed the response should make reference to the particular needs of essential, frontline and key workers, including veterans and those involved in the delivery of ‘blue light’ services.

He also called for other groups, including but not limited to, BAME groups, refugees and asylum seekers, those with learning disabilities, those with a physical health problem, victims of domestic violence, LGBTQ+ people, people who are homeless, and those struggling with addiction to be included.

When asked if he was in favour of the proposal or not, Cllr Gareth Keating replied: “yes but this situation is absurd we are arguing that there should not be a hierarchy but then we go and name all these groups.”

Only the nine DUP councillors present voted against Cllr Tennyson’s proposal, while 31 Alliance, SDLP, Sinn Fein, UUP and independent councillors voted in favour of the proposal.