THE Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell, and Mid & East Antrim Council Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston – both committed supporters of military veterans – jointly launched the 2020 Wings Appeal for the RAF Association in Northern Ireland with RAFA Northern Ireland Chairman, Wg Cdr Noel Williams RAF(Retired), Wg Cdr Jacqueline Rankin (Staff Officer to Air Officer NI), Andy Conn (RAFA NI Regional Standard Bearer) and Joe Corr (Standard Bearer Carrickfergus Branch).
The Lord Lieutenant asked citizens in Northern Ireland to bear in mind the damage being done to charities by COVID-19 and to ‘give generously in their support for the heroes who gave so much’.
The Mayor of Mid & East Antrim commented on the importance of the Wings Appeal in supporting veterans throughout Northern Ireland, pointing out that 2020 was the 80th Anniversary of the air battle that was the Battle of Britain.
Wing Commander Noel Williams said: “We, despite COVID-19, continue to play a vital role right across the Province, and indeed Ireland, as there is a large Republic of Ireland Branch.
“Welfare support and relief is provided for a considerable number of veterans across the island who served in the RAF; that welfare also extends to their families.
“Although we look forward to celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the RAF’s finest hour in 1940, we must focus on the trials and tribulations of the day, exacerbated by the pandemic we are currently enduring, and the pressure it puts on the elderly, which most of our veterans are.”
Mr McCorkell commented: “It was a delight to be able to launch the 2020 Northern Ireland Wings Appeal and I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the nine RAFA branches in Northern Ireland annually raise in the order of £100,000 during the Wings Appeal, which traditionally occurs during Battle of Britain ‘month’ each September.
“This clearly demonstrates the generosity of people across Northern Ireland to enable each branch to raise funds locally to service their welfare needs.”
Councillor Johnston said: “Although I am the Mayor of Mid & East Antrim Council, I do appreciate the spread of the nine RAFA branches across the country.
“These are: Armagh & Banbridge; Bangor; Carrickfergus; Causeway Coast; County Fermanagh; Larne, Lisburn; Newtownards and Roe Valley.
“Collectively they make a formidable force that is tending to the welfare needs of veterans. Of course the provision of welfare is not cheap, which is why I join with David McCorkell in encouraging residents across the land to be mindful of the pandemic, appreciate the damage it has done to the charity sector, and give generously whenever they possibly can.”
RAF Staff Officer Northern Ireland (Wg Cdr Jacqueline Rankin) commented: “This is also an important milestone anniversary of the first battle to be fought entirely in the air; the Battle of Britain.
“It raged during the summer of 1940 when so many young pilots bravely defended the United Kingdom against the overwhelming odds of the Luftwaffe.
“This compelled Winston Churchill to say: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’. I do hope that the 80th Anniversary of the Battle will inspire many to assist the RAF Association across Northern Ireland by donating generously during Wings Appeal.”
Wing Commander Noel Williams concluded: “We are unlikely to be able to have the usual collections across the many local regular outlets people will have got used to due to the pandemic. However, there are other ways to contribute.
“To that end I have a special plea that will enable our branches to be supported. I have made arrangements for donations to be made to the Danske Bank in Carrickfergus. Donations will be shared across all branches and anyone wishing to donate to the Wings Appeal can either post a donation to the Bank (21-23 High Street, Carrickfergus, BT38 7AL), or simply call in and make a cash donation to the RAF Association Wings Appeal.
“For those who use the internet to transfer monies, and would wish to contribute to our welfare work, our Bank details are Danske Bank Carrickfergus; Account: RAFA Wings Appeal; Sort Code: 95:02:61; Account Number: 51041150. A donation of any amount will be thankfully received.”
The Lord Lieutenant and Mayor jointly concluded: “Members of the RAF Association seek to assist those who fought for the liberty we enjoy today. So, we ask, on their behalf, for residents right across Northern Ireland to help those who gave a huge portion of their ‘yesterday’ so that you could have a secure ‘tomorrow’. We urge you to ‘Give as they Gave’.”