Row over veterans’ mental health

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon councillors have clashed over the mention of ‘veterans’ in a response to a draft mental health strategy.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 1:58 pm
Councillor Glenn Barr.

Council’s proposed response to the Department for Health’s mental health strategy came before Council’s environmental services committee.

Committee Chair, Councillor Darryn Caubsy said he would have liked to see reference to “youth services” in the section of the response concerning schools and pre-schools. Councillor Keith Haughian said this was a “fair comment” and proposed the response be approved.

Alderman Glenn Barr welcomed the “detailed report” on an issue that is “quite close” to his heart.

He stressed the importance of ensuring the document’s proposed tailored hubs are actually tailored to geographical need as, “issues in Belfast are not the same as issues in Rathfriland” and noted veterans and blue light services were not mentioned throughout the document.

““If we are going to do something right, we should do it right now and I am proposing that we include a reference to veterans and blue lights services in the document,” he said.

This proposal was seconded by Alderman Ian Burns.

However, Councillor Keith Haughian said he had an issue with any particular group being singled out for mention.

“As I read through the report there are three or four groups I can think of that could and should be looked at,” said Cllr Haughian.

“I sort of thought someone might try to include an individual group in this tonight.

“I have no issue with that group, let’s be clear mental health does not discriminate.

“I’m just not sure if that is the message we want to send in these consultation responses.

“My concern is that it could come across as Council suggesting one group should supersede others.

“I suspect that is not what Alderman Barr is suggesting but that is what will come out of this if we do it that way.”

The Chair, Councillor Darryn Causby said he would take this as an objection to the proposal which would put the matter to a vote.

Alliance Party group leader, Councillor Eoin Tennyson said he had no objection to what had been proposed but sought officer advice on how the wording could be included in the document.

The Chair said it was officers role to find the correct location and he would trust their expertise in doing so. He also said he was not looking to take the matter to a vote.

At this point, Councillor Paul Duffy attempted to raise a point of order suggesting to include veterans and blue light services would have an equality and good relations impact.

The Chair reminded Cllr Duffy that should a member wish to raise a point of order they are required to draw attention to the very specific standing order they feel is being broken.

Cllr Causby said he would give Cllr Duffy some time to find the appropriate standing order and “then I will address the issue”.

Minutes later, the Chair said as Cllr Duffy had not been able to find the standing order, the matter would proceed to a vote.

With a total of 11 votes in favour to six against Alderman Barr’s proposal was approved.