Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Ex-soldier asks PSNI to investigate series of IRA attacks on him during the Troubles

Ex-soldier’s complaint to cops over IRA attacks on him during Troubles could open floodgates for other veterans

By Deborah McAleese

Published 30/01/2016

Mike Harmson serving in Northern Ireland in the 1980s
Mike Harmson serving in Northern Ireland in the 1980s

A former soldier has asked the police to investigate a series of IRA attacks on him during the Troubles.

Mike Harmson, who served for two years in the province as an private in the 1980s, said former soldiers and police officers should be treated the same way as other victims.

The PSNI has now launched investigations into three attempted murders of Mr Harmson by the Provos and a number of other violent attacks.

The ex-soldier explained how he escaped serious injury when he was targeted in a grenade attack in the New Lodge during a riot, a rocket attack on an Army base in Whiterock, and a bomb attack in the city centre.

Mr Harmson, who left the military to join the RUC and then the PSNI, said he decided to report the attacks on him because he objected to the way ex-soldiers were being treated in Troubles-related cases.

"You have all these inquiries and ex-soldiers being arrested, questioned and accused," he said.

"I'm not saying that what happened in the past was right. I'm saying you have to treat everybody the same.

"I think how these legacy cases are being handled is wrong. It got me thinking: 'Well, what about me as a victim'?

"There seems to be no interest in helping the soldiers and police who were victims too. We are being treated as second-class citizens."

Mr Harmson, who now lives in Manchester, criticised the way his report to the police was handled.

"I was less than impressed with the service I got when I first contacted the PSNI two months ago," he said. "They didn't know what way to handle my call, and eventually told me to make a statement to my local station.

"When detectives from Greater Manchester Police came out, they said Northern Ireland needed to sort this out to get it addressed, because if they get loads more veterans coming forward they would be swamped."

Mr Harmson's case could open the floodgates for hundreds of ex-military personnel to report paramilitary attacks against them during the Troubles.

"More than 300,000 servicemen and women served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles," he said.

"If every one of those made a complaint to the PSNI about attempted murders, how do you think the PSNI would manage?

"All victims deserve truth and justice, but how do we do that? Where do we draw the line? Stormont and the British Government need to work out how to deal with Northern Ireland's past."

Earlier this week the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) demanded that any examination of legacy issues "involve the hundreds of officers murdered and the thousands who were maimed in terrorist attacks".

PFNI chairman Mark Lindsay said: "I'm the first to acknowledge there are real difficulties here. However, in the debate so far, there has been little attention paid to the sacrifice made by ordinary men and women who worked tirelessly to protect the wider community."

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph