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DUP's Jim Shannon in tearful plea for justice for murdered cousin

A DUP MP broke down in tears as he called for justice for his cousin who was murdered by the IRA.

Jim Shannon was overcome in the Commons chamber as he recalled the death of his cousin, as well as personal friends who had served in the Ulster Defence Regiment.

It came as MPs criticised investigations into the actions of British veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

The Strangford MP served in the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) during the conflict.

"I understand very well the concept of closure and wanting justice," he said.

"I want justice for my cousin Kenneth Smith, who was murdered by the IRA."

As he struggled to hold back tears, he continued: "I want justice for the four UDR men that the honourable member refers to, a few of whom I knew personally.

"And yet there's no multimillion pound investigation available for that.

"So I resent the idea that this seems to once more represent that one life is worth more than another.

"It's not, never will be."

An emotional Mr Shannon added: "A grieving mother doesn't change with the colour of her hair, the area she lives in or the church that she attends.

"It can never do, and why should it?

"As the member of Parliament for Strangford, I call for this Government to turn round and take the only thing that they can do, and make sure that our people are given the credit and given the fairness that they should have."

Mr Shannon said bogus claims had been made "to destroy the reputation of our armed forces", adding: "This never can be allowed to happen."

The DUP said credible claims should have been distinguished from others more quickly, and that innocent until proven guilty should always have been the fall-back position when claims were made.

He went on to congratulate Tory MP Johnny Mercer (Plymouth Moor View) for his investigation into the discredited Iraq Historic Allegations Team.

"Because of that, I hope that the lessons will be learned by all ... never should claims without evidence be progressed," said Mr Shannon.

"Never should service personnel be left out on a limb."

As he was overcome with emotion again, Mr Shannon said: "Never should we leave a man behind."

After regaining his composure, he said: "The atrocities during the Troubles, was nothing more than evil murder.

"There's no glory found in taking the life of 10 men in a van on their way to work.

"There's no honour in wives without husbands, no honour in mothers without sons or children without a father.

"There's no rally cry around bombs that took the lives of men and women, and children within the womb of women out shopping.

"There's no victory in the indiscriminate slaughter of people who are worshipping in their church on a Sunday morning."

He added: "The glory is the legacy of men and women who gave their all for freedom and democracy.

"The honour belongs to those who have lived their lives with the sorrow of great loss, and yet chose not to retaliate.

"Their rally cry is for those who quietly asked that the memory of their loved ones not to be tarnished by lies or media spin.

"The victory belongs to the right-thinking people of Northern Ireland, who despite having no reason to trust and nor to forgive, have chosen to support the rule of law and justice, and now are waiting for us to give them the support they deserve in these dark hours."

Mr Shannon's comments came during a debate in which the DUP called for measures to be brought forward to ensure British veterans cannot face probes into their actions during conflicts if they have already been investigated.

The party wants a statute of limitations to be introduced which would apply to those who served in Northern Ireland, as well as other war zones such as Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The party's defence spokesman, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, hit out at human rights lawyers for their pursuit of those who served in the armed forces, police and security services.

In an opposition day debate on historical cases in the armed forces, Tory former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth accused Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory of issuing "a fatwa" to the media to suppress criticism of his treatment of veterans.

MPs also accused Sinn Fein of attempting to rewrite the history of the Troubles, turning the focus away from the IRA.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said there was no "moral equivalence" between soldiers who sought to uphold the law in Northern Ireland and "terrorists who sought to destroy it".

He also said he recognised concerns that inquiries in Northern Ireland are disproportionately to do with cases allegedly involving the state.

His colleague, Northern Ireland Minister Kris Hopkins, moved to assuage concerns relating to the reopening of cases as he said specific tests would have to be met before a proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), due to be set up to look at Troubles killings, would consider acting.

He said: "The legislation requiring the HIU will include specific tests that must be met in order that previously completed cases can be reopened for investigation and specifically that new and credible evidence that was not previously available to the authorities is needed before the HIU will open closed cases."

He also acknowledged the current system is in need of reform.

He said: "The present system is not appropriate. It is disproportionate and we need a new system which was agreed under the Stormont Agreement."

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