The Ulster Unionist Party’s Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MC MLA, has called for the introduction of a medal to recognise the courage and service of those who serve in Northern Ireland and whose job is to deal with explosive devices.
Doug Beattie MC MLA said:
“Today I have written to the Secretary of State for Defence to ask if he will consider – for those that serve in Northern Ireland – a medal in recognition of their service and sacrifices.
“Operation BANNER ended in 2007 to be replace by Operation HELVETIC. Since that time, although the violence has been a fraction of what it once was, members of 321 EOD Squadron RLC have been continuously deployed on a daily basis to deal with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Some of these are elaborate hoaxes, some nothing more than an inadvertently abandoned bag or box, but some are deadly devices that can kill or maim members of the EOD squadron. Yet they deploy to these incidents with professionalism and courage and in doing so put their lives at risk for the people of Northern Ireland.
“The most recent Republican terrorist attack in Craigavon has been described as an attack on the police. Terrorists know the actions of the police when any suspect device is found and that is to immediately call for the assistance of the military’s Ordnance Explosive Detachment (EOD) to deal with the suspected device. There is no doubt in my mind that that the terrorists responsible would be satisfied if the result of this attack was the death of a police officer, but the attack was likely to have been aimed at the Ammunition Technical Officer (ATO) who would be deployed to deal with the hoax device, only to be engaged by a Victim Operated IED (VOIED).
“Only for the skill, professionalism and courage of the ATO and his EOD team this may well have been the outcome. Their bravery and the dangers these soldiers face must be recognised.
“Some will say a medal is just a token, but for those who serve it is a reminder of a job they do to protect all communities in Northern Ireland. To that end I think it only fair that the award of an Operational Service Medal for OP HELVETIC is made and backdated to 2007.”