Dromore Legion women fear ‘integration’ plans

Parade Commander Trevor Hawthorne and Standard Bearers Colin Ward and Hazel Edgar �Paul Byrne Photography INBL1545-258PB
Parade Commander Trevor Hawthorne and Standard Bearers Colin Ward and Hazel Edgar �Paul Byrne Photography INBL1545-258PB

A group of Dromore fundraisers is uncertain of its future as the Royal British Legion nationally debates plans to “integrate” its Women’s Section.

With as few as 15 members, the Dromore branch has for years punched above its weight, but has in recent months feared a decision it expected this coming September might herald a knockout blow.

The Legion itself this week moved to reassure the rank and file that while it was seeking to drive efficiencies by integrating the Women’s Section’s administration into the main body of the charity, the day to day reality for members was “unlikely to change” and nor was the section likely to cease to exist as a distinct institution.

The Dromore women report that their most recent, £1,500, contribution to the Legion’s Benevolent Fund topped the totals for some bigger branches and, at the annual conference earlier this year, they were, for the 13th consecutive year, awarded the Rosa Canning Cup for progress and efficiency in a small branch.

It was at conference that members first became aware of discussions over the future of the Women’s Section and it gave rise to fears that the annual gathering might be their last.

Dromore branch Honorary Secretary, Sally Weir, in a report on conference, said: “If this happens the Women’s Section Standard will be laid up, as will branch standards, and wreaths will no longer be laid for Women’s Section.

“As a member and secretary for nearly 30 years it is a very sad time for myself and my fellow members, who were dedicated to this cause.”

Mrs Weir thanked the people of Dromore for their support in the decades since the Dromore Women’s Section branch was established in 1948.

The Legion, meanwhile, said issues such as that of standards were to to be discussed by a joint team set up to take forward integration plans.

A spokesperson said: “As a charity, the Legion has a responsibility to ensure it is run as efficiently as possible and regularly reviewing how its activity is arranged is an important part of this.

“The Women’s section is administered separately with its own set of operating overheads so by moving the provision of its welfare services to the main body of the charity, we can avoid this cost duplication.

“This helps us to make the best use of the funds kindly donated to the Legion in support of the Armed Forces community. Members of The Women’s Section have always provided a valuable contribution to the work of the Legion and we look forward to this continuing in the future.

“Following discussions in June 2016, which took into consideration feedback from the 2016 Annual Conferences of both the Women’s Section and the Legion membership, a joint team representing the Legion and the Women’s Section is being formed to develop a plan for integration.