Doug Beattie MC MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party Justice Spokesperson, writes of the decision to prosecute two former paratroopers over the 1972 shooting of IRA man Joe McCann:
“The decision will add further weight to the perception that aspects of the judicial system, have become unfairly weighted against the forces of the state, and in favour of the terrorists.
“I have always been clear that anyone who broke the law should face the law. However, there is absolutely no account taken of context or the conditions under which the security forces were operating. Joe McCann was a dangerous and ruthless terrorist. He had been involved in several killings, was involved in the attempted murder of the then Stormont MP John Taylor and intelligence reports confirmed he would regularly carry a weapon.
“As a career terrorist he was the local IRA commander and was top of the RUC most wanted list with expectation that Joe McCann would not surrender without a fight. Therefore, it is absolutely understandable that soldiers may well have felt that their lives and the lives of their colleagues were in danger and opened fire within the rules of engagement also known as the yellow card.”
• See links to further legacy stories below including to a News Letter editorial saying that the legacy processes are so pro IRA that they must be halted and overhauled
Mr Beattie added: “Furthermore, 1972 saw 496 deaths, 280 of which were the result of republican terrorists, 86 as a result of security force action. Over the Troubles as a whole, state forces were responsible for 10% of killings, whilst terrorists were responsible for 90%, but you would think the reverse was the case when you see how the past is being policed.
“Recently Kieran Conway has confessed on television to assisting in the murder of British soldiers and Gerry Adams has said he has information that could help in a murder inquiry. Yet neither have been taken to task. In 2014 John Downey walked free from a court because he has a comfort letter, one of nearly 200 issued, most to republican terrorists. Yet the full weight of the law is now directed at those who had the difficult job of protecting law abiding citizens in Northern Ireland, of which Joe McCann was not.
“I believe in the application of law in a fair even handed manner – I am not convinced that is what we are seeing in Northern Ireland today.”
Meanwhile, South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan said: “There has been a totally disproportionate focus on the actions of state forces when compared to the actions of terrorist groups and I genuinely fear this is bringing the entire judicial process into disrepute in the eyes of the public and affecting their confidence in the system itself.
“Two days ago the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon MP said: ‘I am certainly not going to let the Northern Ireland process descend into a witch hunt.’
“I will hold him to that promise.”