Former soldier MP’s fury at fresh round of Northern Ireland probes

‘How the hell can we allow this again?’ Former soldier MP’s fury at £150m unit launching fresh round of ‘witchhunt’ probes into Northern Ireland veterans

  • Bob Stewart was responding to an urgent question in House of Commons today
  • The 69-year-old spoke of his own experience serving in NI during the Troubles
  • Noting the ‘aggressive’ nature of investigations, he said they should not re-start

An MP who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles today expressed outrage at plans to launch a fresh round of probes into veterans stationed there. 

Bob Stewart, 69, was speaking in the House of Commons this morning at an urgent question posed by Mark Francois MP. 

It prompted debate on the proposed plans to set up a £150million unit to investigate incidents during the Troubles.  

In an impassioned speech, Mr Stewart, who completed seven tour of Northern Ireland, said: ‘I lost many men and I was involved in fatality shootings. 

‘I was investigated along with others. The investigations were thorough, aggressive and bloody awful to go through.’

Bob Stewart (pictured), 69, who served in Northern Ireland, said that investigations into veterans during the Troubles had been ‘bloody awful to go through’

Among those currently facing prosecution is a former soldier, known as Soldier F, who has been charged with the killing of two people during Bloody Sunday in 1972 (pictured)

He noted that when the investigations were completed, soldiers sometimes had to go and prove they’d acted in accordance the yellow card – designed to ensure a solider acted within the law.    

He continued: ‘I told two soldiers in 1978 […] that because they’d been to court and been proved innocent […] they would never ever be asked to do such a thing again. 

‘How the hell can our government allow such people to be possibly investigated again?’ 

His comments come just one day after Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said she was determined to end the ‘chilling’ threat of repeated investigations into those who served during the Troubles.  

She unveiled plans for a new law that will stop soldiers from being probed over incidents more than ten years old unless compelling new evidence comes to light. 

While the amnesty will not immediately extend to those who served in Northern Ireland, Ms Mordaunt said it was a ‘personal priority’ of hers to make this a reality in the future. 

Penny Mordaunt yesterday unveiled proposals for a law that will stop soldiers being investigated over incidents more than ten years old unless compelling new evidence comes to light

The cabinet minister (pictured last week) said she hopes to extend protection to troops from repeated investigations into historical allegations to cover veterans of Northern Ireland

Such a move would be at odds with plans by the government’s own Northern Ireland office, which will soon announce a new taxpayer-funded unit tasked with investigating the alleged offences of Northern Ireland veterans. 

It comes after a public consultation found an ‘overwhelming majority’ did not support such an amnesty, while there was ‘broad support’ for such a body set up to examine 1,700 deaths during the Troubles dating back to 1968.   

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute in London, Ms Mordaunt said she hoped the measures could offer a way forward for those who served during the Troubles.

‘I do think it should cover Northern Ireland,’ she said during a conference at the Royal United Services Institute.

‘The problem is that we have failed to make progress on the whole ‘lawfare’ issue because we have been held up waiting for other things to happen.

‘It is not going to be resolved overnight. It is a personal priority of mine that we get this resolved and we stop this chilling effect that is claiming veterans who really deserve our care and respect.’ 

Ms Mordaunt, making her first major speech as Defence Secretary, faced immediate criticism for not extending the amnesty to veterans of the Troubles (pictured)

Among those currently facing prosecution in relation to the Troubles is a former soldier, known as Soldier F, who has been charged with the killing of two people during Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.     

While the former head of the Army, General Lord Dannatt, said peers would try to amend the legislation to extend it to Northern Ireland when it comes to the House of Lords.

‘Soldiers did their duty, got up in the morning, sometimes they came under attack. They returned fire,’ he said.

‘They didn’t set out to murder people. Terrorists set out every morning to murder people and successfully did so. There is a huge distinction to be drawn.’ 

A timeline of Bloody Sunday and the Troubles

August 1969 – British Government first send troops into Northern Ireland to restore order after three days of rioting in Catholic Londonderry.

30 January 1972 – On ‘Bloody Sunday’ 13 civilians are shot dead by the British Army during a civil rights march in Londonderry.

British troops in Northern Ireland during the Troubles which began in the late 1960s and lasted until 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement

March 1972 – The Stormont Government is dissolved and direct rule imposed by London.

1970s – The IRA begin its bloody campaign of bombings and assassinations in Britain.

April 1981 – Bobby Sands, a republicans on hunger strike in the Maze prison, is elected to Parliament. He dies a month later.

October 1984 – An IRA bomb explodes at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where Margaret Thatcher is staying during the Tory Party conference.

Early 1990s – Margaret Thatcher and then Sir John Major set up a secret back channel with the IRA to start peace talks. The communications was so secret most ministers did not know about it.

Johnathan Ball (left), 3, and Tim Parry (right), 12, were killed in 1993 after IRA bombs exploded in the small town of Warrington, Cheshire

1993 –  Two IRA bombs hidden in litter bins detonated on Bridge Street in Warrington Cheshire, killing 12-year-old Tim Parry and three-year-old Johnathan Ball and injuring dozens of civilians.

April 1998 – Tony Blair helps to broker the Good Friday Agreement, which is hailed as the end of the Troubles. It establishes the Northern Ireland Assembly with David Trimble as its first minister.

2000s – With some exceptions the peace process holds and republican and loyalist paramilitaries decommission their weapons 

2010 – The Saville Report exonerates the civilians who were killed on Bloody Sunday leading to a formal apology from then Prime Minister David Cameron to the families. 

2019 – Prosecutors announce whether to brig charges against the 17 surviving Paras who fired shots that day.

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