UUP ex-military man offers condolences to shot soldier’s family

Undated handout issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Private Conor McPherson who died while taking part in a night live-firing exercise at the Otterburn Training Area in Northumberland
Undated handout issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Private Conor McPherson who died while taking part in a night live-firing exercise at the Otterburn Training Area in Northumberland

Doug Beattie, a soldier-turned-unionist politician, has added his voice to chorus of condolences for the family of a soldier who died in a shooting accident.

However Mr Beattie, UUP MLA for Upper Bann, said that the kind of live firing exercises which cost him his life are “fundamental” to training.

Private Conor McPherson of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland ,had been killed in a Live Firing Tactical Exercise in Otterburn, Northumberland.

The Scot had been shot during a training session after 11pm on Monday.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Alasdair Steele, had said: “Private McPherson was a capable young soldier who had previously trained in both Kenya and France.

“He was hugely committed about his career in the Army, he had aspirations to join the machine gun platoon and attend a junior leadership course at the start of next year.

He had enlisted in May 2014.

Doug Beattie, a captain in the Army reserve, said: “It was with deep sadness that I heard of the death, while on exercise, of Private Conor McPherson.

“As a British infantryman Conor will have honed his skills around the world conducting realistic and physically demanding exercises, including live firing tactical training.

“These live firing exercises are fundamental to ensuring our Armed Forces are ready for operations anywhere in the world and at short notice.

“They combine the skills he will have learned as an Infantryman combined with the capabilities and capacity of a variety of weapon systems.

“Although huge efforts are made to minimise risk, there is always an inherent danger that individuals may be injured, and on occasions killed.

“It outlines the commitment of our armed forces whether on operations or in training.

“His commanding officer described him as a committed soldier and having served with young men like Conor, I can but echo his commanding officers comments.

“I know his friends and colleagues will mourn his passing but it is important that a full investigation is conducted and lessons are learned from this tragic accident.

“Until then I must pass on my condolences and those of the wider Ulster Unionist Party, to the family of Private Conor McPherson and hope they find peace in the difficult time ahead.”