Ulster Unionist MLA and Upper Bann Westminster candidate, Doug Beattie MC, has called on the DUP’s David Simpson to explain exactly how a false claim that he visited frontline troops in Afghanistan appeared in his election literature, and to apologise.
Doug Beattie MC said:
“David Simpson should apologise to voters for the false claim made in his election leaflet that he has ‘visited British troops on the front line in Afghanistan.’
“Many politicians visit troops on the front line of any given theatre of operations but there is no shame on any politician who doesn’t visit the troops. However, there is shame on any politician who says they have visited troops but in reality have not.
“I am extremely disappointed, given that in 2010 and 2011 I was serving and fighting in Afghanistan with the Royal Irish Regiment. I remember Sir Jeffrey Donaldson visiting troops of I R IRISH and Irish Guards in Nad-e-Ali in January 2011 as part of the Defence Select Committee visit. He will know how important it is for soldiers to have politicians stand face to face with them to listen to the real issues they face. I remember him being there because I was serving there at the time and was coming to the end of a brutal eight-month tour of duty.
“David Simpson however, did not make it out, after a trip in November 2010 was cancelled when the Army could not find body armour large enough to fit him.
“One would have thought that Mr Simpson would have read his own election leaflet prior to publication, realised that he had never been to visit frontline troops in Afghanistan, and corrected the error.
“I note that the DUP are now trying to say that the claim Mr Simpson has ‘visited British troops the front line in Afghanistan’ is due to a printing error, and that it should have referred to a visit to troops in Iraq in 2008.
“To that I would say three things.
“Firstly, as someone who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan I have to say I am disappointed in David Simpson for implying that he had visited troops on the front line in Afghanistan when he has not done so.
“Secondly, anyone who cannot distinguish Iraq from Afghanistan or feels there is no operational difference between each, is naive in the extreme & has a real credibility problem.
“Thirdly, the photo used in Mr Simpson’s election leaflet was posted on his Facebook page in 2010 in an album entitled – strangely enough - ‘Afghanistan.’ This is clearly no printing error.
“Mr Simpson needs to explain exactly how this situation has arisen, apologise and move on.”