Once again, the Westminster donkeys are stabbing the lions in the back! Army chiefs have slammed the Government’s decision allow the legal persecution of caught up in Northern Ireland’s Troubles – even though the political elite let hundreds of terrorist murderers out of prison in their indecent haste to make ‘peace’ with the IRA.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan, is so angry that he is returning his officer’s Commission in protest. General Lord Dannatt, former head of the Army, compared the hounding of old soldiers with the very different treatment of former terrorists.
The Government’s decision breaks its pledge last year to include amnesties in its consultation on how to deal with historic issues in Ulster.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley confirmed she was defying concerns expressed by many, including her Cabinet colleague Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, and had decided not to make a “statute of limitations” an option in the four-month consultation on how best to uncover the truth of so-called “legacy” cases.
Three former British soldiers already face prosecution over killings in the 1970s – Dennis Hutchings, 77, of Cawsand in Cornwall, and two former Paratroopers, now in their late 60s. Many more could now follow.
Lord Dannatt continued: “A statute of limitations might result in some injustice but the number of cases will be very small set against the uncertainty and fear faced by soldiers who are now elderly and who were doing their duty.”
He also spoke up for Mr Hutchings, saying: “Dennis Hutchings was part of the battle group that I was in in 1974.
He is an old man. He should be allowed to have his old age.”
Retired Colonel Kemp told how he lost comrades to terrorists on his seven tours of Northern Ireland.
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.”
Retired Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, of the UK National Defence Association, said: “The pursuit of old soldiers is going to make it more difficult to retain the loyalty of troops if they know that at some point many years later everything they have done will be gone through with a fine tooth comb.
“You risk getting into a situation where personnel think that if they pull the trigger or drop a bomb they will be the target of a witch hunt in 20 years’ time – so they won’t do it.
“It also seems unjust and unbalanced to apply a higher standard of justice to a poor soldier serving his country than to people who deliberately and wantonly went out to commit acts of terrorism.
“It is unjust to go after men after all this time especially when some of the terrorists are literally getting away with murder.”