Questions for Tommy on that Afghan Mission

John Hedges at An Phoblacht has listed some questions for SDLP MLA Thomas Burns regarding his recently declared pom-pom waving trip to “observe military operations” in Afghanistan. The issue was brought into the public domain (and, apparently, that of his party leader) by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams during the UTV Leaders’ Debate.

Here’s what is declared in the MLA’s Declaration of Interests:

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.

Not surprisingly, the Sinn Fein organ has delighted in pursuing this matter (all fair being love and war, of course.)

But the questions posed by Hedges will make interesting reading if and when they are answered. Here they are:

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?