Sinn Fein anger at proposals to help protect veterans

A Troubles-era military checkpoint
A Troubles-era military checkpoint

New proposals to raise the standard of evidence required to prosecute former soldiers have been slammed by Sinn Fein as a “cover up”.

Mid-Ulster MP Francie Molloy was commenting after the UK’s defence secretary pledged to stop military veterans facing “vindictive” prosecutions.

On Monday, Gavin Williamson said it was an “absolute tragedy” that ex-soldiers – including many who served in Northern Ireland – were being pursued through the courts,

The new measures being proposed are believed to include strengthening the presumption of innocence for veterans and raising the legal threshold for prosecution.

Mr Williamson was quoted in a number of national newspapers as saying he believes the current situation “is fundamentally so incredibly wrong”.

He added: “It is the thing I have constantly thought we need to find a solution for. We think we are very close to finding a solution and making sure former and serving personnel will not go through the strain, the worry and the trauma of fearing a knock on their door.”

However, Mr Molloy said the proposed new laws are designed to protect the state.

He said: “There is nothing vindictive about pursuing wrong-doing and criminality, In contrast, the slaughter of innocents on Bloody Sunday, the Ballymurphy massacre, in Springhill, the New Lodge and in hundreds of other cases was vindictive and the 40 year cover-up of these crimes by the British state is entirely indefensible.

“That is what the British state really fears being exposed through legacy investigations of the conflict in Ireland. They aren’t concerned about individual squaddies being pursued through the courts, they are concerned about the state-sanctioned murder, repression and collusion being exposed.”

Mr Molloy added: “That is why we see the lie that the legacy process is skewed against state forces being repeated at the highest levels of government, including by the British prime minister herself.

“And that is why we see this latest attempt to create a two-tier justice system where former British combatants are effectively above the law.”