Last Saturday it was my privilege to join with fellow military veterans in London who were marching in protest at what has been termed a ‘witch-hunt’ against ex-servicemen.
The Ulster Unionist Party has repeatedly warned the Government that proposals for dealing with the past have been incomplete, imperfect and imbalanced and is very clear that the re-writing of history cannot be allowed to happen.
The frustration and anger felt by those on the march – organised by the group ‘Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans’ – was all too evident.
As a former soldier myself, this has been a cause very close to my heart and right at the top of my list of priorities. Since being elected to Westminster, I have been active on this issue.
I have written to every MP and member of the House of Lords on the Hutchings case, held four meetings with the Secretary of State, two with the Minister of State, one meeting with the Assistant Chief Constable in Charge of Legacy matters and have been in correspondence with the Armed Forces Minister and the Northern Ireland Justice Minister.
I have also participated in debates at Westminster and am helping co-ordinate and build up a Parliamentary support group being set up amongst members of both Houses. I have also secured a debate in the main chamber of House of Commons which will take place in a few weeks.
There is a strong feeling amongst many people that whilst 90 percent of killings during the Troubles were caused by terrorist groups, both loyalist and republican and only 10 percent were the responsibility of the state, nonetheless investigations and legal proceedings seem to have focused unduly on the 10 percent and not the 90.
Furthermore, there is anger that whilst terrorist suspects have been able to avail of OTR letters of comfort and the use of Royal Prerogative, elderly former soldiers are being dragged before the courts.
We owe these veterans- and the RUC and Prison Officers – a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid, because they are the people who held the line against anarchy and enabled the defeat of the terrorist campaign.
I have always been clear that no one should be above the law. However we must arrive at a system, as the Secretary of State has said previously, which is fair, balanced, impartial and proportionate in dealing with the past.
I welcome his comments at the weekend which indicate that the Government is finally grasping the importance of the situation and the anger which is felt right across the United Kingdom.
Danny Kinahan MP, Ulster Unionist, South Antrim