Stop denigrating state forces

Scene of the Ballygawley bus bomb massacre in 1988
Scene of the Ballygawley bus bomb massacre in 1988

As a surviving soldier of the 1988 Ballygawley bus bombing (1st Light Infantry Regiment) and someone who has been interviewed in the past by this publication I felt obliged to respond to an article which appeared in Friday’s edition (July 31).

In it victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (which is an organisation that the Ballygawley Bus bombing families are connected) had challenged Trevor Lunn of The Alliance Party around comments he made at a recent panel event following the showing of the Ballymurphy film.



I took some time to watch the video posed on Youtube to which the article referred and as a former serving soldier in Northern Ireland my impression was that Mr Lunn had suggested that he would clap his hands when soldiers were eventually convicted of Ballymurphy.

He did not say: if soldiers were convicted after being proven guilty of crimes.

It was quite right that he was pulled up on his language.

At another point in the interview Mr Lunn also insulted the unionist community who he had suggested had little sympathy for nationalists at the point of Ballymurphy – 1971.

I along with tens of thousands of others served the British Army and its various regiments with honour and distinction and despite intense provocation I never broke the code nor did my colleagues.

To read the piece on Friday where Mr Lunn when defending his position referred in the same breath to republican, loyalist and state violence I felt very frustrated. This is the language that republicans use to try and equate themselves with those of us who served in a legal army.

The IRA and UVF were not combatants – they were terrorists intent on causing loss of life and destruction of property.

I lost eight colleagues, eight innocent young men stolen in the prime of their lives, 18 others met the same circumstance at Narrow Water and hundreds of others were similarly murdered.

The IRA and other terrorist organisations had no more right to murder anyone.

I want to thank Innocent Victims United for standing up for me and for many others who wore the British Army uniform.

Mr Lunn needs to act with a degree of humility and instead of trying to diminish what he said and what he didn’t say he should instead ensure that he is on the side of right from here on in.

James Leatherbarrow, By email