Theresa May: Legacy process ‘disproportionately focused’ on veterans

Theresa May has said the current process of investigating Northern Ireland’s troubled past is “flawed” and “disproportionately focused” on the armed forces and police.

Tory MP Sir Henry Bellingham told the Commons that military veterans who had already been investigated over alleged crimes in NI should “never be hounded or pursued unless there was overwhelming new evidence”.

Theresa May during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons

Theresa May during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons

He raised the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions today, claiming the treatment of veterans and former police officers was “against natural justice, damaging to recruitment and contrary the military covenant”.

Sir Henry was one of scores of Tory MPs who signed a letter to the PM this week calling for the end to investigations of soldiers who served in NI during the Troubles.

Responding, Mrs May said the current system in Northern Ireland “isn’t working”.

She added: “It isn’t working for soldiers, it isn’t working for police officers, it isn’t working for victims.”

The PM said the country owes “a vast debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery” of soldiers and police officers, adding that they “upheld the rule of law and were themselves accountable to it”.

And she said this would “always set them apart from and above the terrorists who...were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of members of the security forces”.

Mrs May said she was clear that under current mechanisms for investigating the past there is a “disproportionate focus” on former members of the armed forces and the police.

“We are committed to ensure all outstanding deaths in Northern Ireland should be investigated in a way which is fair, balanced and proportionate,” she told MPs.

In a statement, Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon said the PM should “stop peddling the fallacy that the legacy process is skewed against British state forces”.

She added: “That assertion is simply untrue as has been evidenced by the facts published by the Director of the Public Prosecution Service and the PSNI. It is a narrative inspired by her partners in the DUP and a lobby of former British combatants who do not want Britain’s crimes in Ireland to be investigated.”