Government ‘appeasing IRA’ by ditching amnesty: ex-Army chief

Colonel Richard Kemp has said soldier prosecutions have come about due to political pressure from republicans
Colonel Richard Kemp has said soldier prosecutions have come about due to political pressure from republicans

A former Army chief has said the government is attempting to “appease the IRA” by dropping a proposed amnesty intended to prevent investigations into soldiers who served in NI during the Troubles.

Colonel Richard Kemp has said he will hand back an honour awarded to him by the Queen in protest at the government’s decision last week to exclude a statute of limitations preventing soldier prosecutions from a planned consultation on the legacy of the conflict.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said people’s desire not to draw a line in the sand on Troubles investigations informed a decision to exclude the amnesty.

Talking to the Daily Express, Col Kemp said the decision was a “betrayal”.

He said: “As a former infantry soldier I am so outraged by this unprecedented betrayal of our fighting men that I am returning the hard-won commission awarded to me by the Queen that I have prized for 40 years.”

On Monday Col Kemp elaborated in an interview on the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster: “One of the things that angers me is the comparison people make between soldiers and terrorists. They almost suggest as if they’re comparable in some way whereas, of course, soldiers put their lives on the line to protect Northern Ireland while the terrorists go out with the specific intention to plan and cold-bloodedly murder innocent people.”

Commenting on the case of ex-soldier Dennis Hutchings, who will be tried for attempted murder in connection with a fatal shooting in NI in 1974, Col Kemp said: “The reason he should not be prosecuted, in my opinion, is the incident he was involved in was investigated 44 years ago when it happened. The decision was taken by the legitimate prosecuting authority that there would be no action taken against him.

“Now he’s about to be dragged before the courts aged 77 and in bad health. There is no new evidence. This is basically a political prosecution brought about as a result of cynical pressure by Sinn Fein and other republicans and the government has happily and willingly gone along with it.”

He added: “We are talking here – in this case and in the case of the other military and security forces people being prosecuted – about political prosecutions. We’re talking about the British government’s attempts to appease the IRA.”

He described legacy investigations into republican terrorists as “fake”: “They’re not going to lead anywhere. These people are not going to jail.

“The Good Friday Agreement came to an arrangement with Sinn Fein that essentially these people would be, one way or another, let off.”