Campaigners for justice for three Scottish soldiers murdered in Belfast by the IRA have voiced frustration at the silence from the Scottish government after its First Minister Nicola Sturgeon granted them an audience with one of her cabinet secretaries.
Three Scottish Soldiers campaign director Kris McGurk met Scottish Veterans Minister Keith Brown of the SNP almost five weeks ago to request support for their campaign for justice. Mr Brown told them they would get back to them after Easter, yet there has still been no response.
Fusiliers Dougald McCaughey, 23, John McCaig, 17, and Joseph McCaig, 18, were enjoying off-duty drinks in a Belfast bar in 1971 when IRA men lured them to their deaths on the pretext of meeting girls, in what was dubbed ‘the honeytrap murders’.
Mr McGurk told the News Letter: “This meeting with Mr Brown was four or five weeks ago now and we have had no response, so we have now contacted him again. This means we are looking for an answer now.
“We do not want him to keep our campaign waiting any longer. Really it should be a matter of a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to our requests.”
They had asked Mr Brown for official, public support for their campaign from the Scottish government, help with legal costs and that Holyrood would write to the PSNI, Metropolitan Police and An Garda Síochána to ask for information on suspects to aid their private action.
The meeting with Mr Brown came about after controversial comments by his fellow SNP MSP John Mason. In February Mr Mason was asked on Twitter if he would support the fund-raising appeal for the campaign, but made headlines for weeks with his response: “You say Irish murderers. Others say Irish freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad”.
After much public wrangling, his party leader Ms Sturgeon tried to draw a line under the row by writing private letters of apology to the families. In response they requested a private meeting, to which she offered a meeting with Mr Brown, which took place on March 23.
But Mr McGurk said they came away “disappointed” and that the minister told them “not to get our hopes up”.
Campaign lawyer Matt Jury said Mr Brown told them that their requests were a matter for Westminster. “But how can the deaths of three innocent off-duty Scottish soldiers, murdered by terrorists, not concern Holyrood?” he asked.
This week the Scottish government promised it would get back to the campaigners.
“The veterans minister held a productive discussion with families’ representatives,” a spokesman said. “As agreed at the meeting, we are now looking at the requests from the families and will be in contact with them shortly.”
• Cheques can be sent to ‘The Three Scottish Soldiers Fund’ c/o McCue & Partners LLP, 4th Floor, 158 Buckingham Palace Rd, London, SW1W 9TR.
MAKE A DONATION ONLINE AT: www.threescottishsoldiers.org