British Service Personnel Memorial

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons on 12th December 2018.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee

If the Government will make it its policy to build a national memorial to British service personnel killed on service in Northern Ireland.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

May I start by paying tribute to my predecessor in this role, my hon. Friend Mr Vara, who has been typically generous and helpful with his time and efforts during the handover?

I am sure that everyone on both sides of the House will agree that we all owe a vast debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery of British servicemen and women who were killed upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. Within the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire sits the armed forces memorial. Rightly, it includes the names of every member of the armed forces killed while serving in Northern Ireland, as a permanent reminder of their bravery and sacrifice.

Photo of John Mann John Mann Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee

Anthony Dykes, who came from Harworth, a mining village in my constituency, was murdered on 5 April 1979. His parents, Fred and Kathleen Dykes, are two of the finest people I have ever met and represent everything that is good about my community and this country. Other grieving parents have specific memorials. For Fred and Kathleen’s son and others who were killed or murdered on duty in Northern Ireland, there is no such memorial. Is it not now time that, as with other conflicts, there is a specific memorial for those who served our country and lost their lives in the conflict in Northern Ireland?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I understand and empathise with the hon. Gentleman and his constituents. In fact, as I visited the former Massereene Army barracks in Northern Ireland last week, I paused to pay my respects at a local memorial to two former Army engineers who were killed in 2009. There are many such memorials to individual acts of heroism or tragedy scattered not just across Northern Ireland, but around the rest of this country. Those commemorate individual actions and tragedies. The national memorial is the one in Staffordshire, and we should not underestimate its importance or value—it having been opened by Her Majesty the Queen and recording the names of everybody who has been killed on service in Northern Ireland and other conflicts.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Will the Minister remind the House how many brave British service personnel were killed or wounded in Operation Banner, which was the defence by this country against a terrorist onslaught in Northern Ireland?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

Having been in the job for three and a half weeks, I am afraid that I do not have the precise number, but it was very many and the tragedy was huge.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

One of the last formal acts I did as Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2013 was to unveil a memorial stone in the Belfast City Council memorial garden to the Ulster Defence Regiment and others who served in Operation Banner. May I invite the Minister to come with me to see the memorial there and to consider how best nationally we could reflect the Government’s recognition of sacrifice in Northern Ireland?