Any new legal protections for military veterans must apply equally across the United Kingdom, the DUP’s defence spokesperson has said.
East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson was responding to media reports that proposals being brought forward by Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt aimed at protecting veterans from the threat of repeated investigations into alleged historical offences will not apply to Northern Ireland cases.
Today in the House of Commons he raised a Point of Order on the issue, following previous assurances given to him by the Attorney General.
Mr Robinson said he was “perturbed” to read in the press that proposals to protect veterans will not apply to Northern Ireland.
“It shows scant disregard for people the length and breadth of this United Kingdom who stood to protect our interests, our values and our democracy,” he said.
Commenting afterwards, he added: “On 31st January in response to a question from me the Attorney General gave a clear commitment that Northern Ireland veterans would not be excluded from any protections to be brought forward. Indeed, he said ‘No area of the United Kingdom can be left out; plainly that would be wrong’.
“Any united stance from the Government on this issue should be brought before the House of Commons first rather than being trailed in the press. DUP MPs will ensure that this issue is pursued and challenged further.”
Stressing his continued opposition to a statute of limitations to protect veterans from prosecution, former soldier and UUP MLA Doug Beattie said: “I have been openly opposed to any form of a statute of limitations in Northern Ireland for the simple reason being that it would be open to be used by terrorists, and there can be no equivalence between the armed forces and terrorists.
“I do not understand what they are trying to achieve by what they are trying to put through at this moment in time. If it is purely to stop vexatious claims against military personnel then I absolutely welcome that. But if it is in any shape or form trying to stop the military being accountable then I am against that.”
The Upper Bann representative added: “I have long argued that a statute of limitations here in Northern Ireland would mean that terrorists would have to avail of similar and I could never accept that.”