A Scottish National Party MSP has been condemned for suggesting that IRA members who killed three Scottish soldiers could be considered “freedom fighters”.
Fusiliers Dougald McCaughey (23), John McCaig (17) and Joseph McCaig (18) were drinking in a Belfast bar in 1971 when IRA men befriended them and invited them to meet girls at a party. They were then taken to the outskirts of Belfast and shot in the head, prompting the killings to become known as ‘The Honey-trap Murders’.
It was the first time the IRA targeted off-duty soldiers, causing tens of thousands to take to the streets in protest. Nobody has ever stood trial for the murders.
The London lawyers who successfully brought a civil action which saw four men found liable for the 1998 Omagh bomb recently launched a fund-raising appeal for a similar action against the alleged 1971 killers.
On Tuesday night Scottish National Party (SNP) MSP John Mason was asked on Twitter if he would support the appeal.
In his response, he said: “Happy to support all campaigns to bring about justice. But not taking sides between Irish and British”.
It was then pointed out that the victims were Scottish soldiers and he was asked if he was refusing to take sides between Scottish soldiers and Irish murderers.
The Glasgow Shettleston MSP responded: “You say Irish murderers. Others say Irish freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad”.
Mr Mason was also asked if he supported the IRA during the Troubles to which he replied he was “not taking sides on Irish issues”.
Kris McGurk of the Three Scottish Soldiers Campaign said: “I am very angry. I sent him an email stating how upset I am.
“He is my own local MSP and two of the McCaughey family also live in his constituency. I am calling on the SNP party leader Nicola Sturgeon to condemn these comments and offer a full apology to the families.”
Matthew Jury of McCue & Partners, who is spearheading the civil action, said: “For an elected politician to appear to suggest that Dougald, John and Joseph were somehow responsible for their own deaths - three innocents murdered in cold blood - is simply shocking.”
DUP election candidate Nelson McCausland said other SNP members have made headlines in recent times for comments in support of the IRA. “People will rightly ask what exactly the SNP’s position on Irish republican terrorism actually is,” he added.
UUP election candidate Robert Foster described Mr Mason’s comments as “simply incredible”.
The SNP had not offered any comment.
The campaign to bring the killers of the three soldiers to justice has been spurred on by the fact that three elderly ex-soldiers from England are being tried in Northern Ireland for alleged offences they committed during the Troubles.
The ‘Three Scottish Soldiers’ campaign is also alarmed at reports that the PSNI are to investigate hundreds of other retired soldiers who were involved in “fatal incidents” while battling terrorism in Northern Ireland.
“Conversely, our government has done next to nothing to bring the murderers of these young men, who pledged to serve their country, to justice,” the group says.
However, if the authorities will not bring the killers to justice, the group says, then the soldiers’ families and loved ones will act to do so instead.
“That is why they have set up the Three Scottish Soldiers Campaign for Justice”.
The campaign has been endorsed by DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and UUP Assembly election candidate Doug Beattie.
With 14 days to go, 184 people have already donated £4,845 of a £10,000 target.
SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN: Click here to make a donation