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Soldier injured as he saved two girls from IRA bomb is part of group seeking fresh terror probes

By Deborah McAleese

Published 05/02/2016

A soldier takes up a position in a doorway in the Markets area of Belfast in 1971
A soldier takes up a position in a doorway in the Markets area of Belfast in 1971

A British Army veteran who was seriously injured as he rescued two young girls in an IRA bomb attack during the 1970s is to ask the PSNI to track down the bombers.

The former soldier is one of a number of veterans planning to lodge complaints with the PSNI about attacks against them during the Troubles. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, who has responsibility for legacy cases, said yesterday that the PSNI is to draw up plans to deal with requests from Army veterans for probes into historical gun and bomb attacks.

Mr Hamilton told the Northern Ireland Policing Board: "We have to consider how we will discharge these requests."

Earlier this week, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that up to 150 ex-soldiers are to ask the PSNI to investigate terrorist attacks on them during the Troubles.

A flood of allegations of PIRA attacks is currently being processed by a lobby group for veterans to be handed over to detectives over the next few weeks.

The Belfast Telegraph has seen a number of the complaints which include:

  • Soldier A was injured on August 29, 1971, as he rescued two young girls in Londonderry from a bomb. He spotted a device with a smoking fuse while on patrol and as he rushed the girls to safety the bomb exploded. The soldier later received a Certificate of Commendation from the Army for courage;
  • Soldier B was on patrol in Oldpark Road in Belfast in 1989 when a coffee jar device with Semtex and nails was thrown at his patrol, leaving him with serious arm injuries;
  • Soldier C was injured when a car bomb exploded less than 30 feet from him on Bow Street in Lisburn in 1972;
  • Soldier D escaped serious injury when a 1,000lb bomb, planted inside a van outside Markethill Police Station, exploded in August 1991;

Many of the soldiers involved in the class action, which is being led by the lobby group the Veterans Party, have claimed that there was never any police investigation into the attacks. Former soldier Mike Harmson, who has reported a series of IRA attacks on him during the 1980s, said that any investigation into legacy cases should also include attacks on the military.

"Operation Banner (the operational name for the British Armed Forces' deployment in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007) was not a war or classed as one so we should have been treated to the same rights as any other member of the public," he added.

The Veterans Party said they want any examination of legacy issues "to involve the thousands of Armed Forces personnel who served, those who were murdered and those who were maimed in terrorist attacks."

A spokesman added: "These events cannot be swept under the carpet. There are countless unsolved crimes and incidents involving members of our Armed Forces who served bravely in Northern Ireland, along with many hundreds of relatives who also seek closure."

Chairman of Stormont's justice committee, Alastair Ross, said: "Every victim of the Troubles must have a proper investigation. There must be no sell-by date on justice."

He added: "My colleague, former part-time soldier and former Dungannon councillor Sammy Brush stands as an example. New information came to the surface about the IRA attempt on his life. The police investigated and 30 years after the crime, Gerry McGeough was convicted.

"The burden of legacy cases is incredible and Arlene Foster has already said Her Majesty's Government should be assisting with this."

DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig warned that the action "is going to be a fundamental headache" for the PSNI and the authorities, but said that he welcomed it.

He added: "I think the soldiers are right to come forward.

"Let's have a full investigation into those who attempted to murder them and see what it turns up."

Belfast Telegraph

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