Government has hung us out to dry, says NI veteran

A Northern Ireland veteran charged with attempted murder has joined protesters rallying against investigations into troops who fought in the Troubles.

A small group gathered outside the Ministry of Defence in London on Friday to demand the end to probes into historical allegations.

Veterans (left to right) Alan Barry, Roy Brinkley, Michael Burke and Peter White protesting outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London, against investigations into troops who fought in during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Veterans (left to right) Alan Barry, Roy Brinkley, Michael Burke and Peter White protesting outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London, against investigations into troops who fought in during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Others were expected to meet outside Army recruitment centres elsewhere in the UK to issue warnings to prospective soldiers.

Dennis Hutchings, a 77-year-old former member of the Life Guards regiment, is accused in relation to the fatal shooting of a man with learning difficulties in 1974.

He joined protesters in Plymouth.

Mr Hutchings said the historic investigations are “absolutely appalling” and called for a statute of limitations on offences for service personnel.

“We’re in a situation where we’re being hounded by lawyers,” he added.

“The Government has hung us veterans out to dry.”

Mr Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, is due to stand trial in Belfast charged with attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent. He denies the charges.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, was shot in the back in Co Armagh as he ran away from an Army patrol. His family argued that he ran across a field because he feared men in uniform.

Alan Barry, co-founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans pressure group and who fought in the conflict with the Grenadier Guards, said: “Veterans are being thrown to the wolves.

“We laid our lives on the line for this country. We went to Northern Ireland to fight terrorism, and veterans are basically being ignored by the Government.”

A Government spokeswoman stressed the welfare of veterans and serving personnel is of the “utmost importance”, and insisted they are provided with legal support.

“It is only due to the courageous efforts of our security forces that we have the relative peace and stability that Northern Ireland enjoys today,” she added.

“We are now considering how best to improve the current system and ensure that there is no unfair and disproportionate focus on former members of the Armed Forces.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has previously said there is “no support” for a “Northern Ireland-only statute of limitations”.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) statistics have indicated more of its legacy resources are used to investigate paramilitaries.

The protesters in London planned to hand in their response to the Government’s consultation on legacy arrangements, before its deadline later on Friday.

The 2014 Stormont House political agreement involving the British and Irish Governments and the main Northern Irish political parties envisaged a mechanism for dealing with the legacy of violence.

It was to include the creation of an Historic Investigations Unit to probe old cases for opportunities for criminal prosecutions.