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Northern Ireland

Mandatory military service for young people in NI would be 'bonkers', and figures 'don't add up'

“If you’re given £2.5 billion for young people, this is not how you would spend it.”

A MOOTED PLAN by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to introduce military service for young people is “utter nonsense”, according to Colum Eastwood.

The SDLP leader has condemned the suggestion and said that the proposed budget of £2.5 billion would “never be enough” to implement it anyway.

Sunak, who is on the campaign trail ahead of a general election in July, said that if re-elected, he would introduce a requirement for 18-year-olds to either complete a year’s placement in the military or spend one weekend a month for a year volunteering in their community.

Eastwood says the idea is a sign of a “faltering” Tory campaign.

“It would be chaos if we had to bring this in in Northern Ireland,” Eastwood told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“The figures don’t add up at all. £2.5 billion would actually never be enough to implement this.

“If you’re given £2.5 billion for young people, this is not how you would spend it.

“[Young people] are going to be told they have to take whatever spare time they ahve and go and work for free, or join the army and possibly be sent to some warzone around the world” he said.

“It’s just bonkers.”

A committee known as a royal commission is expected to be tasked with working out the logistics of the plan.

The Journal understands that the Conservative party expects the royal commission would “examine particular sensitivities regarding Northern Ireland”.

Eastwood said: “The fact that you can implement mandatory volunteering is a bit of an oxymoron in and of itself.

“The Tory party actually spent 14 years stripping away public services, stripping away community organisations from their funding.”

UK Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan did not rule out the possibility of parents being liable for fines if their adult children refuse to take part in the national service plan proposed by the Conservatives.

She said that the scheme would be compulsory in the same way as staying in education or training until 18 is.

Asked on Times Radio whether parents would face prosecution if their 18-year-olds refuse to sign up for the military or volunteering activity, she said: “I’m not going to write the detailed policy now. That’s what a royal commission programme of works will be for.”

With reporting by the Press Association

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