Belfast one of five UK cities to host military veterans’ protest rallies

Military veterans’ groups are planning to bring up to a quarter of a million former service personnel on to the streets in protest at ongoing prosecutions over Troubles fatalities.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 12:14 pm
One of a number of motorcyclists who took part in the Rolling Thunder protest in Belfast in April 2019. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Belfast in one of five major UK cities selected for the United Veterans Groups UK rallies planned for August 28 this year.

The protests – also taking place in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff – are being organised jointly by the Million Veterans March, Justice for NI Veterans Original, Rolling Thunder and UK Veterans One Voice groupings.

In a joint statement, spokespersons for the umbrella group said they have been working behind the scenes during the last 12 months to halt the “politically motivated prosecution of old soldiers who were previously cleared of all wrong-doing”.

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Former soldier Dennis Hutchings appearing at Armagh Court in 2017. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Robin Horsfall and Paul Young said military veterans are concerned that the prosecutions “have been pushed through by vindictive ‘lawfare’ sponsored by Sinn Fein,” and added: “Before the last general election Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that he wanted ‘vexatious prosecutions’ stopped. To date the veterans have seen no substantial change in policy or bills presented to Parliament.”

UK Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer has been critical of the Government’s lack of urgency in bringing forward legislation to protect veterans.

“I am not happy with the pace of progress,” he told Bauer Media.

One of the most high-profile prosecutions involving a former soldier is that of Dennis Hutchings, 79, who is due to stand trial in Belfast later this year.

The former Life Guard has been charged in relation to the fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Another high-profile case is that of an ex-member of the Parachute Regiment, known by the cipher ‘Soldier F’, who faces a number of charges in connection with the ‘Bloody Sunday’ deaths in Londonderry in 1972.

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