Veterans’ campaign to march in Londonderry

The veterans' campaigners on a previous march. Their Londonderry parade is scheduled for March 4
The veterans' campaigners on a previous march. Their Londonderry parade is scheduled for March 4

Around 100 military veterans will march through Londonderry next month to protest against the ongoing “vindictive” criminal investigations involving former soldiers.

Organised by Justice for Veterans UK (JFV), the march is one of a number taking place across Northern Ireland during 2017.

The former troops will make their way from the Royal British Legion (RBL) building at Iona Terrace in the Waterside on March 4, along the Spencer Road and Ferryquay Street to the Diamond where a wreath will be laid at the cenotaph.

The Parades Commission has been notified and to date there have been no expressions of concern that the event could encounter any opposition.

Following the wreath laying, the veterans will make their way back to the RBL hall along an almost identical route.

JFV claims there is a “biased approach” being taken by law enforcement agencies when dealing with alleged criminal acts involving military personnel who were on duty at the time of the controversial incidents – either in Northern Ireland or other areas of conflict around the world.

Another key concern of the group is the failure to fully implement the Military Covenant in Northern Ireland – which would protect soldiers against discrimination when accessing essential services due to the often transient nature of military service.

The march has been organised by former Craigavon resident Anto Wickham, who served 22 years in the Royal Irish Regiment and has three sons who have served in Afghanistan.

“I think dragging a 70-year-old former soldier into court is just disgusting,” he said.

“We can’t take republicans to court because they are pulling out these magic ‘get out of jail’ cards (on-the-run ‘comfort’ letters). We feel that is unjust.”

Londonderry was the scene of one of the most controversial incidents of the Troubles when paratroopers shot dead 13 people during Bloody Sunday in 1972. A 14th person died later.

A team of 14 officers in the PSNI Legacy Investigations Branch is currently probing the incident.