IRA ‘freedom fighters’ MSP facing renewed backlash

John Mason MSP has caused further controversy
John Mason MSP has caused further controversy

A Scottish National Party MSP who described the IRA as “freedom fighters” has suffered a fresh backlash after refusing to back a motion supporting an investigation into the murder of three Scottish soldiers in Belfast.

Fusiliers Dougald McCaughey, 23, John McCaig, 17, and Joseph McCaig, 18, were drinking in a Belfast bar in 1971 when IRA men befriended them and murdered them.

Campaigners have been raising funds for a civil action against the killers.

SNP MSP John Mason caused outrage in February last year when asked to endorse fund-raising for the case.

He responded on Twitter: “You say Irish murderers. Others say Irish freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad.”

His comments eventually forced a apology from his party leader, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as well as Mr Mason himself.

Two weeks ago the News Letter reported that Mr Mason had angered relatives of the murdered soldiers once again, this time by refusing to back a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling on the security forces to release files on the three murders to the families’ legal team.

Kris McGurk, who leads the Three Scottish Soldiers campaign, said Mr Mason’s comments had prompted fresh public anger.

“The Scotsman and Scottish Sun have all picked up this story since you published,” he told the News Letter. “Mason is under real pressure from the social media reaction online here, he is forced to post on his own private Facebook to try take the heat off it. In fact he has made it worse. Social media is going mad.”

David McCaughey, a cousin of one of the three soldiers, said: “This is a scar that has never healed. Again we have looked for help and support from the main political party namely the SNP. We then find that John Mason was asked for his support regarding the three boys justice campaign, yet his allegiances seem to be the same as Sinn Fein/IRA, who are opposed to the British state and our armed forces.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “John Mason has made clear his support for reconciliation between communities in Northern Ireland and efforts to deliver justice for victims and families affected by conflict. He has offered to meet with campaigners to discuss these matters – and wishes to restate that offer.”