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Rishi Sunak in Belfast this week Alamy Stock Photo
Foolproof plan

UK to examine 'sensitivities' in North around Sunak's military service plan for young adults

The Conservative,if re-elected, wants to require 18-year-olds to either complete military service or volunteering.


THE UK GOVERNMENT will examine “sensitivities” regarding Northern Ireland in the context of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to introduce military service for young adults.

The Conservative, who is on the campaign trail ahead of a general election in July as his party lags behind Labour, announced 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.

Sunak believes  his policy would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world” and give young people a “shared sense of purpose”. 

There have been many criticisms raised against the plan on a macro level related to funding and resources as well as on an individual level, such as what it would mean for young people who rely on working part-time at the weekends.

In particular, questions have been levelled against Sunak about how his national service plan would play out in Northern Ireland.

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”.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood called the plan a “shameless stunt from a dying government” and said it would never work in Northern Ireland, asking why “billions in taxpayers money should fund it while communities here suffer significant public spending cuts”.

This policy platform is unserious, unwanted and unworkable. How does Rishi Sunak think he will force kids in Northern Ireland to perform national service in the British Army or undertake ‘mandatory volunteering’ – a total contradiction in terms?

“Public services are on their knees and public sector workers in our health service and schools are still out on strike fighting for a fair pay deal. How can the British Government afford at least £2.5bn for this nonsense but not stump up the cash for junior doctors or classroom assistants or school bus drivers? It’s absolutely perverse and it’s all about winning back voters in England who have abandoned the Conservatives,” Eastwood argued.

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party voiced its opposition to the plans, saying they are “completely out of touch with families and young people”.

The SNP said that it appeared funding would come from the UK shared prospertiy fund, a replacement for European Union structural funds.

Amy Callaghan, candidate for Mid Dunbartonshire, said that the SNP “will stand firm against Tory plans to slash Scotland’s funding and impose mandatory national service on young people – showing why it’s essential to vote SNP to get rid of the Tory government and put Scotland first”.

“It’s shameful Keir Starmer also claims mandatory national service is ‘needed’ and won’t rule out imposing it on Scottish families – these plans from a bygone era are completely out of touch with families and young people in Scotland – and deeply damaging to Scotland’s communities.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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