WITH the Royal British Legion board of Trustees meeting on Thursday to consider the future of their break centres throughout the UK, including Bennet House in Portush, a DUP delegation met with RBL Director General Charles Byrne this morning to press the case for retaining this vital centre for the veteran community.
Speaking afterwards, DUP Defence Spokesman Gavin Robinson MP commented: “We were grateful for the opportunity to engage with the Director General and impressed upon him that the decision to close Bennet House was regressive, counter productive and failed to consider the unique circumstances Veterans in Northern Ireland face.
“Living within their theatre of service, Bennet House has served as a place of sanctuary; a safe haven that facilitates respite and comradery for our veteran community.
“With commitments now secured for a statutory duty to implement the Armed Forces Covenant and indeed, the provision of a Veterans Commissioner in Northern Ireland, now is not the time to make such a drastic cut to an important local service.”
MP Gregory Campbell said: “On 28th December I stood with 100s of veterans and our wider community outside Bennet House as a powerful sign of how significant this facility is. Knowing first hand the positive impact the Royal British Legion has made with our veterans through Bennet House, it’s closure would be a bitter blow for them and their families.
“We outlined clearly to Mr Byrne that the Royal British Legion need to take into account the unique challenges faced by our veteran population and delay their decision until such times as a new Veterans Commission can conduct a full needs analysis in Northern Ireland.”
Carla Lockhart MP added: “I have been contacted by local branches of the Royal British Legion in my constituency who have impressed upon me the importance they place on Bennet House.
“Today’s meeting gave me the opportunity to stand up for Veterans in Upper Bann and encourage the Royal British Legion to reconsider their plans for closure. Veterans should be commended for their strong campaign in retaining this revered facility.”