Beattie: Saoradh protesters’ freedom ‘fought for by the men standing with me’

UUP MLA and military veteran Doug Beattie MC at the Belfast protest

UUP MLA and military veteran Doug Beattie MC at the Belfast protest

Stormont Assembly member Doug Beattie, who won a Military Cross for bravery while serving in the Afghanistan, said the Saoradh protesters had the veterans to thank for their right to march.

In a media interview ahead of the protest, Mr Beattie said the veterans’ campaign was about “balance, fairness and proportionality”.

He said: “What we are looking at in the very near future is an historical investigation unit being set up, akin to an international police force, which will take every single killing by the military and reinvestigate it. It will not be doing the same for terrorist atrocities. We believe that justice should be balanced and we believe that justice should be fair.

“The terrorists were responsible for 90% of the killings in Northern Ireland so we feel it needs to be balanced.”

The PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch is investigating more than 3,200 killings between 1969 and 2004.

In January, Secretary James Brokenshire said he was concerned the unit’s investigations were “disproportionately” focusing on the security.

However, Mr Beattie said he wouldn’t go as far as calling the historic investigations a “witch hunt.”

He said: “When I say the Ballymurphy families absolutely deserve justice, I also say the UDR soldiers killed outside Downpatrick, when they were driving in a vehicle which had no armour, also deserve justice. What we are asking for is that proportionality.”

Asked to give his thoughts on the counter protest by Saoradh, Mr Beattie said he “hadn’t given it a thought.”

He said: “They have got the right to protest in the same way we have got the right to protest. The veterans fought for their right to protest, fought for their freedoms, so every step that this protest takes, they are taking that step with the freedom fought for by the men standing with me today.”

Addressing those attending the veterans’ rally, the Ulster Unionist said: “We all deserve justice, but what we are seeing now is a Frankenstein version of justice which is all focused one way and no other way.

“We don’t want preferential treatment. If you break the law you should face the law, be you a soldier, policeman, member of the public or politician. But what we are seeing here is an imbalance.”

“People are talking about Article 2 [European Convention on Human Rights right to life] investigations. Okay, so let’s have it for everybody, because those soldiers who got on that Ballygawley bus [in 1988] to drive from Aldergrove to Omagh...where was their right to life? Where is their Article 2 investigation?”