29 April 2010 Edition

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Burning questions about SDLP Tommy and his Afghan adventure paid for by the British Army


BY JOHN HEDGES

THE SDLP seems to have signed its own unofficial Official Secrets Act about SDLP MLA Thomas Burns’s visit to British troops in Afghanistan.
In the Assembly members’ of interests, the South Antrim lists that:
“In September 2008, I visited Afghanistan on a fact-finding trip to observe military operations and reconstruction efforts in the region. The cost was met by the Ministry of Defence.”
When Gerry Adams raised Tommy’s Afghan adventure during the UTV Leaders’ Debate last week, SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie was dumbfounded. She sat silent.
I can’t find any mention of the Afghan adventure on any of Tommy’s websites and there does not appear to be any press releases about the SDLP man’s military adventure with the British Army.
So these questions remain unanswered by Tommy Burns and the SDLP:–
•    What are the details?
•    Who proposed the visit – the SDLP or the British Army?
•    Who else was on the trip?
•    What was the duration of the trip?
•    What exactly did it entail?
•    Who did the SDLP man meet in Afghanistan?
•    What were Tommy’s arrangements with the British Army?
•    Which “military operations” did he observe?
•    Which “reconstruction efforts” did he observe?
•    What was the benefit of the trip?
•    What has happened since as a product of the trip?
•    Why is the SDLP so coy about this?
•    Will it need a Freedom of Information Act enquiry to find out what Tommy did with the British Army then and since?

As Private Eye would say: I think we should be told.

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