Attitudes of the people of Northern Ireland towards current and former UK Armed Forces personnel have been revealed for the first time in a report released today, Wednesday 13th June, titled ‘Public Attitudes to the UK Armed Forces in Northern Ireland’.

The Forces in Mind Trust funded an additional set of questions in the Northern Ireland Life and Times survey (NILT) and results were collated in a report produced by researchers from Ulster University.

42% of the NI population reporting a high/very high opinion of the UK Armed Forces today versus 12% having a low/very low opinion. This is notably higher than the 33% high/very high opinion of the UK Armed Forces when considered in the context of the Troubles specifically. Findings from the survey show that there are still substantial differences of opinion within the Protestant and Catholic communities, and across different age groups.

Recommendations within the report include:

• Community Integration and building of relationships between veterans and the community.
• Awareness training through a public facing campaign promoting positive images of veteran mental health and addressing perceptions of alcohol misuse, to reduce the negative effect misinformed perceptions can otherwise have on employment prospects and social networks.
• The developments of an exploratory committee to look at the issues associated with implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant, and awareness raising to improve understanding of its principles and the situation specific to Northern Ireland.

Researchers have highlighted potential areas for future research such as the regular incorporation of Armed Forces related questions in the NILT survey to map the public opinions over time and highlight any changes.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “It’s great to see the opinion of the people of Northern Ireland being heard in relation to the UK Armed Forces. Although we see improvements in how people perceive the Armed Forces, there is significant work still to be done in relation to views on the mental health and alcohol misuse of ex-Service personnel, and on understanding and awareness of what the Armed Forces Covenant is.”

Principal investigator, Professor Chérie Armour, Ulster University, Associate Dean of Research and Impact and Director of the Institute of Mental Health Sciences, said: “For the very first time we have been able to explore public attitudes in Northern Ireland towards the UK Armed Forces, veteran’s wellbeing, and service provision.

“Key to our results are that the largest majority of the public reported they respect the Armed Forces and that many have a high to very high opinion of the UK Armed Forces. Many also reported that they would be supportive of a specialist mental health service for veterans living in the region.”

You can see the full report here