Archives For Armed Forces

Ian Paisley MP was in attendance at a gala dinner at the weekend at the Royal Court Hotel in Portrush hosted by the Robert Quigg V.C. Commemoration Society. The event was the most recent of a series of fundraising events to generate the funding for a memorial statue to the Victoria Cross recipient in his home town of Bushmills.
Speaking at the event Mr Paisley commented “I am a huge supporter of the Commemoration Society and the work they do to ensure that our most gallant of heroes has a lasting memory and legacy in this area.”
In a helpful coincidence the dinner was held just days after the most recent awarding of a Victoria Cross to Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey, who is now the only living recipient of the medal after his bravery in rescuing an infantry soldier and mounting an offensive on Taliban insurgents during a mission in August 2013, eliminating 11 Taliban members in the process.
The evening was hosted by Paul Clarke MBE and had various speakers including the Society Chairman Leonard Quigg, the great nephew of Private Quigg. Mr Quigg received his award for his outstanding bravery in the First Day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 were he saved no fewer than seven of his injured comrades in 1916.

The North Antrim MP concluded “It was an honour to be part of this wonderful event. The fact that 160 people were in attendance tonight shows the depth of feeling of gratitude in this area to Private Quigg almost 100 years after his acts of heroism in World War One. The statue will provide a lasting legacy in this town of its highest acclaimed resident. I spoke in parliament this week about exploring new ways in which we as UK citizens and indeed Members of Parliament can pay a more significant tribute to Victoria Cross recipients such as Private Quigg. I look forward with anticipation to pursuing various ways of increasing our recognition and commemoration.”

Ian Paisley MP has called on the House of Commons to do more to celebrate the actions of those military personnel who have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Mr Paisley’s request comes off the back of Wednesday’s announcement that Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey is to be awarded the medal in recognition of his extraordinary bravery in Afghanistan, becoming only the 15th soldier to be honoured with a Victoria Cross since the 2nd World War.

The North Antrim MP made reference to Private Robert Quigg from Bushmills who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his “most conspicuous bravery” at the Battle of the Somme.

The MP commented “Tomorrow night in North Antrim we will be celebrating the life and times of Private Quigg who in 1916 won a Victoria Cross for conspicuous valour at the Somme. Yesterday we read the wonderful news of Lance Corporal Leakey who has received the most recent V.C. Does the Leader of the House plan to do anything here formally to celebrate the achievements of this modern day hero and indeed other heroes who have won the V.C so as parliament can pay respects to these wonderful people?”

William Hague MP who was responding to Ian Paisley’s comments very much supported the request, stating “Mr Paisley draws attention to an individual that I think the whole nation will be extremely proud of. We should give consideration as to how this House should recognise those who receive V.C’s and other medals for valour and gallantry.”

Speaking after the debate the North Antrim MP added “The stories of Lance Corporal Leakey and Private Quigg bear striking resemblances to each other in the sense of disregarding one’s own safety to tend to injured colleagues. While Private Quigg set out in to no mans land seven times to try and rescue his platoon commander, Lance Corporal Leakey Made three trips up and down a hillside towards the Taliban lines to rescue both an injured American colleague and to gather weaponry to mount an offensive on the enemy”.

The Military of Defence this morning described Lance Corporal Leakey as single-handedly changing the course of that entire operation, which was eventually successful with the injured American soldier being the only casualty of the operation whilst eleven insurgents were killed.

Mr Paisley concluded “I am delighted that the Leader of the House agreed with me that more should be done to recognise our military heroes here in parliament and I will actively pursue the calls I have made to ensure that nobody forgets the sacrifices our military make for our freedom in this most poignant of periods of remembrance.”

Captain Arthur O’Neill

November 10, 2014

On Thursday I attended on behalf of parliament the official memorial and wreath laying ceremony for the first Member of Parliament to die in the Great War on 6 November 1914. It was a very poignant ceremony and was attended by members of the O’Neill family. It took place at the Great War memorial window in Westminster Hall. Mr Speaker preceded and Lord Eames conducted the religious ceremony.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of parliament and the family.

22 MPs lost their lives during the Great War of 1914-18. I was aware that the MP for what was then Mid Antrim (now North and East) was one of those members, as his family plaque and coat of arms is immediately under the gallery as you enter parliament. He was in fact the first member to give up his life in the war.
Arthur O’Neill was born on 19th September 1876 and was the son of Baron Edward O’Neill. His political career at Westminster began in 1910 when he succeeded is uncle Robert Torrens O’Neill as the Member of Parliament for Mid Antrim, a post that he held up until his death. His son was Terence O’Neill. He of course went on the be Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister in the Stormont parliament and whom my father challenged in 1969 over his leadership of unionism. The current North Antrim seat is made up of Captain Arthur O’Neill’s former seat.
It was exactly 100 years ago to the day when Captain O’Neill was killed in Belgium on the 6th November 1914 on Klein Zillebeke ridge on what was one of the most critical days of the first battle of Ypres, as the Germans sought to gain control of the Channel Ports.
The circumstances of his death bring home the horrors of war. He had helped give cover to his squad and was dashing back to them when he was shot along with his colleague. He rolled around injured on the ground and gave more cover to his colleague who was rescued. Germans then came upon Oneill as he lay wounded and one officer stood over him and shot him three times. It was murder on the battle field.
At the memorial service I read a letter sent to his family that Lord Rathcavon let me read detailing his murder is was appalling and a great reminder of the awfulness of war.

Captain O’Neill joined the 2nd Life Guards in 1897 and prior to the Great War he fought valiantly in South Africa, being awarded both the King’s Medal and The Queen’s Medal with three clasps for his bravery between 1899-1900.
I found an extract from the Ballymena Observer dated the 20th November which talks of Captain O’Neill’s death. The letter is written to the family of 2nd Lt W.S Peterson from his fellow soldiers to deliver the news of his death. The following is taken from the letter:
“Our brigade, the regiment itself, were known to stay in the trenches longer than anyone else. Your brother died with two other officers of the regiment, Major Dawney, commanding and Captain Arthur O’Neill, in driving the Germans back; they accomplished this work and in so doing actually saved a great defeat of our arms; the fact is recognised by the General. I heard – I do not vouch for the truth of it – they killed 16 Germans before they were killed.”
It is obvious from the descriptions of his death as well as his decorated military career that Captain O’Neill was a leader of men both on the battlefield and in politics.
I found a biography of Captain O’Neill in the House of Commons library which was a description of his character at the time of his death.
“He was greatly valued for his amiable and stainlessly upright career. If he was less widely known, it was because his modesty and intelligence and sweet temper made less display of the vigour and firmness which he showed later, not only in the South African war and his political life, but also in the patriotic organisation of his native Ulster”
Lest We Forget

Local MP Ian Paisley has welcomed the news that the Heritage Lottery Fund have confirmed this week the £178,000 grant that was provisionally awarded to a local project exploring the legacy of the First World War, Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising last month.
The three year project entitled On the Brink: The Politics of Conflict 1914-1916′ will be focused in the areas of the New Mid and East Antrim council and the Causeway.
This funding gives us an opportunity to educate our young people and indeed ourselves in much greater detail on the legacy that this period in our history left us and which remains with us today.
“This was an extremely significant period in UK politics and society that not only incorporated World War 1, but also the rising tensions closer to home over the Home Rule crisis, which ultimately led to the Easter Rising as well as the Labour and Women’s Rights movements which gathered rapid momentum around this era” said Mr Paisley.
The project will incorporate exhibitions, tours and workshops as well as displaying a whole range of artefacts, public memorials and monuments to give us a much greater understanding of the political landscape and the resulting change to our political climate from the events of this time.
Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) NI said of the grant award: “We were delighted to support the Mid Antrim and Causeway Museum Services in delivering this exciting project along with their local communities. There will be lots of opportunities for people to get actively involved in exploring this significant period of our shared history. HLF is also funding communities to explore their First World War stories through our FWW: then and now grant programme so we encourage groups to have a look on our website”
The North Antrim MP concluded “There has never been a more fitting time to acknowledge and appreciate the significance of this period in our history as we mark the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of World War One.
We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for this sizeable grant to put together such an extensive project.”

MP Welcomes Troops Home

October 28, 2013

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley was amongst a group of Government representatives, including Prime Minister David Cameron, who met to applaud the 120 representatives of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, led by Brigadier Rupert Jones MBE, as they returned home from duty in Afghanistan this week.  The group were invited to parade to Westminster where hundreds of parliamentary staff joined MPs in welcoming home the troops.  Prime Minister Cameron acknowledged the sacrifices made by all of our armed forces and the groundbreaking achievements made by British troops as they prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan and hand over control to the new Afghan Government.

Westminster Troops Parade

Mr Paisley commented “It is vital that we never forget the damage to and loss of life that the war in Afghanistan has caused.  Our troops are regarded as some of the finest in the world and the bravery and commitment demonstrated by the young men and women who have joined us here today at Westminster compares to no other.  As a progressive nation we should never forget the sacrifices that members of our armed forces have to make to promote and maintain the freedom and democracy that Great Britain is built upon.”

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley met with members of the Chelsea Pensioners this week as they visited Northern Ireland.  The retired servicemen, members of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards were in the province to be with their regiment as they laid up their final standard in St McCartan’s Cathedral in Enniskillen

Chelsea Pensioners


I.P Sam Cameron of the Pensioners commented “The welcoming atmosphere of the people of Northern Ireland has been second to none and if anyone wishes to make a return journey in the future they can be assured of a warm welcome at The Royal Hospital Chelsea”, where the Pensioners are based.

Mr Paisley commented “Its an honour to welcome members of the Chelsea Pensioners to our shores as they come to celebrate the Dragoon Guards proud history.  I trust they have had a wonderful stay and that they return home safe in the knowledge that as a proud nation, we have nothing but respect for the bravery they have demonstrated and the sacrifices they have made to preserve the freedom of Great Britain.”

Ian Paisley MP speaks out for Ballymena war hero in Parliament.
This week in the House of Commons, Ian Paisley our MP called on the Government to explain their treatment of local Ballymena war hero, Philip Gillespie.
Philip was on tour with the Royal Irish Regiment in Afganistan in January 2011, when he stepped on an improvised expolosive device and lost his right leg. However, undeterred by his injuries, Philip has become an inspirational figure in Northern Ireland and beyond for others who have to deal with such traumatic life-changing events. He recently completed the 6000 mile gruelling Dakur rally as part of fundraising for RacetoRecovery and continues to prove that life can and does go on after such serious injury.
However the hero recently went to see our Member of Parliament concerning a matter of grave concern. After a medical assessment the Government informed Philip that he would no longer be entitled to Disability Living Allowance because he uses a prosthetic limb and can therefore walk unimpeded. Philip then went from March until May without receiving his payments because of this reason.
Ian Paisley was disgusted by the treatment of war veteran Philip. Speaking in the House of Commons he said:
“What would the Minister say to my constituent, Philip Gillespie, who served our nation in Afghanistan and lost his right leg in an explosion there? Last month, he lost his disability living allowance and was told that he would be caught up by the new military system that is soon to be put in place. I hope that he will be caught up by it, but will the Minister ensure that this never happens again, and that a soldier serving this nation is never refused a benefit to which he is entitled?”
Philip has since received payments under the newly implemented military system, but still lost out on money in the months intervening.
Paisley spoke afterwards of his astonishment that an injured soldier would be treated in such a way:
“I think it’s an complete and utter outrage that one of our country’s bravest men, who was injured serving us in Afghanistan, was subsequently refused DLA by a bureaucrat who quite obviously could never contemplate what Philip had to go through.

I am obviously pleased he is now covered under the military system, but the fact of the matter remains that he should never have had to come and see me over such callous mistreatment from our Government system.
The purpose of raising this in the House of Commons was to ensure that this is an isolated incident, and that our war heroes are always honoured and respected with whatever they need after fighting so valiantly for our country away from home. I sincerely hope this is the end of the matter, and that bureaucrats who make these outrageous decisions sit down and reflect at what such a person did for our country and just how they deserve to be treated moving forward.”