Politics: Sick Gulf veteran takes protest to No 10

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The Independent Online
A SICK Gulf War veteran carried his seriously-ill baby to the Ministry of Defence yesterday to highlight the suffering of many children born to troops who fought in the conflict.

Ian Dunne, 28, who served with the RAF's 66 Squadron, said that his eight- month-old son, Reece, had been born with congenital heart disease.

Mr Dunne is convinced that his son's illness is directly linked to the deterioration in his own health since he returned from the Gulf. "I feel as though I am mentally grinding to a halt. I feel as though I'm dying," he said.

After returning from the war in 1991, Mr Dunne left the RAF and became an officer with Thames Valley Police. But his police career lasted only 18 months as he was obliged to retire on health grounds.

"I never used to be like this. I have mountain-biked up Mt Snowdon and I used to run half-marathons," he said. "Now I get muscle spasms, twitches, shooting pains in my joints and down my arms."

Although he has a healthy son by a previous marriage, Mr Dunne's attempts to raise a family with his second wife, Barbara, have been fraught with problems. Mrs Dunne had a miscarriage in her first pregnancy and Reece nearly died soon after being born. He has Down's syndrome and a narrowing of the aortic arch, which restricts the blood flow to the lower half of his body.

Jo Masters, a solicitor with London firm Hodge, Jones & Allen, said yesterday that more than 100 babies born to veterans of the Gulf conflict had become seriously ill. "There seems to be a link," she said. "There are a lot of children being born with heart problems."

Yesterday Mr Dunne, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, also handed a letter to 10 Downing Street to protest at the lack of government support for the families of sick Gulf veterans.

The Armed Forces minister, John Reid, admits to being greatly concerned by the condition of some of the veterans and has ordered that research into the nature of Gulf War illnesses is made a top priority.