Skip to main content

Defence Capability

Volume 541: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2012

8. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the contribution of soldiers from Northern Ireland to UK defence capability; and if he will make a statement. (97681)

I would like to pay tribute to all those from Northern Ireland and, indeed, from all regions of the United Kingdom who serve in our armed forces. I speak regularly with ministerial colleagues across Whitehall on matters relating to Northern Ireland, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that much can be learned from the Royal Irish Regiment, which recruits from all sections of the community?

My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on. I am very proud to have the Royal Irish stationed in my constituency. I went to the Barossa dinner on Monday, celebrating the capture of the first French eagle with the cry:

“By Jaysus, boys, I have the cuckoo.”

The regiment is a glorious example of an organisation that brings people together from all parts of the community, including from south of the border.

In recognising the tremendous sacrifice of our brave soldiers from Northern Ireland in contributing to the defence of the United Kingdom, does the Secretary of State acknowledge that there is a time bomb of mental health problems facing those who return from the field of conflict? What steps are being taken to assist those people?

I entirely endorse the hon. Gentleman’s comments and I pay tribute to the three rangers of the Royal Irish who sadly lost their lives in the Helmand campaign last year. He is absolutely right to draw attention to the mental health problems that can occur and I discuss this with my right hon. Friends in Cabinet. He should also discuss it with the local Ministers who are responsible for delivering those services in Northern Ireland.