A “pragmatic approach” is needed when dealing with legacy issues and much more classified information could be released, former Royal Irish Regiment captain Doug Beattie has said.
The soldier-turned UUP councillor was speaking after a BBC Spotlight programme on Tuesday, looking into a number of Troubles killings.
Mr Beattie said the show highlighted cases which had nothing to do with national security, and said: “They were either bad judgement, mistakes, or they were people who were not properly controlled, so in cases like that then the MoD and Government should most definitely release the information – maybe not the names – but the information... and give closure to the victims.
“To me, the victims are really, really important.”
He added: “I agree there are certain circumstances where information cannot be released because it may endanger people who are still walking the streets today, and we did see that with Denis Donaldson who was killed when it was released that he had been an informer.
“Even if a name was redacted, certain information that would be on the report, such as places and activities, could still point to people and put them in danger.”
Commenting specifically on the death of Annette McGavigan, who was shot close in Londonderry in 1971, he said: “I know this is a wider issue than the Spotlight programme, but who would honestly target a 14-year-old girl?
“If it is absolutely clear she was killed by a soldier then I would say that has been a mistake – it may have been a ricochet, he may have been engaging someone else, but I would not believe that any soldier would deliberately target a 14-year-old.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to say, remembering what 1972 was like, that some soldiers made mistakes, and they were incredibly tragic mistakes.”
Mr Beattie went on to say: “Many soldiers did engage believing they were under attack, and some of them would have engaged mistakenly. So I do think it needs to be looked at, the whole business of what a soldier’s perception was at the time and how he was governed by the rules of engagement [known as ‘the yellow card’].”