Belfast Telegraph

MP's tears for cousin slain by IRA as he urges end to soldier 'witch-hunts'

By Jon Vale

A DUP MP broke down in tears as he called for justice for his cousin who was murdered by the IRA and an end to the "witch-hunts" against soldiers who served during the Troubles.

Jim Shannon was overcome in the Commons chamber as he recalled the death of his relative, as well as personal friends who had served in the UDR.

The Strangford MP was a member of the UDR during the Troubles, as was his cousin.

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

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

Mr Smyth (28) was off duty when he was shot while travelling to work in his car at Clady near Strabane in Co Tyrone on December 10, 1971.

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.

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

After regaining his composure, he made reference to the Kingsmill massacre of 1976, when 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA.

He said: "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."

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 that would apply to those who served in Northern Ireland, as well as other war zones such as Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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 were 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.

The Conservative junior minister 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.

"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," said Mr Hopkins.

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