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MoD defends inquest info call to former Paratroopers

By PA Reporter

The Ministry of Defence has defended a social media post appealing for information from former soldiers about a Troubles killing.

Bernard Watt (28) was shot dead in 1971 by the Army in the Ardoyne area of Belfast.

The inquest into Mr Watt's death has been delayed for several years as attempts were made to find witnesses. However, the inquest is now due to be held in April.

The MoD request was posted on the Parachute Regiment's Facebook page, and asked former members with any knowledge of the 1971, or who were deployed to Belfast at the time incident to get in touch. It prompted hundreds of comments with many describing the appeal as a "witch-hunt" against ex-soldiers".

Simon Foster posted on the page: "Might want to try nursing homes, hospitals, graveyards or if all else fails Chelsea Hospital....despicable witch-hunt against old soldiers."

An MoD spokesperson told the BBC they must make all "reasonable attempts" to contact those who may have information.

Speaking on behalf of the Watt family, solicitor Padraig O'Muirigh told the BBC: "This inquest was directed by the Attorney General in 2012, almost five years ago, and to date there has been very little success in identifying soldiers involved on that particular day. This family never had a proper investigation and it's not about a witch-hunt.

"An inquest is a fact-finding mission, it doesn't make decisions on criminal or civil liabilities so to call it a witch-hunt is a gross exaggeration."

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