The Northern Ireland Secretary has been warned that the DUP expects the rights of members of the armed forces in Northern Ireland to be upheld as part of its deal to support the UK government.
Ian Paisley MP made the remarks while Karen Bradley was questioned about a decision by the UK Border Force not to include former military experience as criteria for employment in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon told a meeting of the NI Affairs Committee this morning that the “discriminatory recruitment process” must be overturned by the government.
Committee member North Antrim MP Ian Paisley intervened and reminded the Secretary of State of the government’s commitments under the Military Covenant.
He quoted from the Confidence and Supply agreement between his party and the prime minister.
“It says full implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant throughout the whole of the United Kingdom,” he said.
“I hate to have to remind you in public, it’s this confidence and supply agreement that keeps the government in place.
“We expect this to be honoured. We expect armed forces who served throughout the United Kingdom and across the world on behalf of the UK, that their rights will be upheld.”
The Secretary of State told the committee the government fully supports the Military Covenant and would expect military experience to be considered as part of the recruitment process.
She said the Northern Ireland Office had received legal advice that there was a basis for different criteria to be applied in Northern Ireland.
“We need to make sure that when we do things we do things in a way that they’re not going to be challenged in the courts,” she explained.
There was also a difference of opinion between Karen Bradley and the committee about whether she had made representations about the issue to the Immigration Minister, who has responsibility for the UK Border Force.