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SNP's Mason stands by comment about soldiers killed by IRA

By Claire O'Boyle

Scottish MSP John Mason refused to apologise last night after comments he made about the IRA murder of three young soldiers were branded "grossly offensive" and "insensitive".

The SNP man hinted in a heated Twitter row that the Scottish victims - aged just 17, 18 and 23 when they were shot dead in 1971 - might be somehow to blame for their tragic fates.

But Mr Mason insisted his comments were 'general' and not directly linked to any one case.

The row erupted after the Glasgow Shettleston MSP was asked to back a campaign - run by his own constituents - to bring the republican killers of Fusiliers Dougald McCaughey and brothers John and Joseph McCaig to justice.

Refusing to "take sides" between British and Irish, Mr Mason added: "You say Irish murderers. Others say Irish freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad."

The three murdered soldiers were lured from a Belfast city centre bar on March 10, 1971 to White Brae in Ligioniel, where they were shot.

Their families are now fighting to have the killers, men they claim are known to police and security services, brought to justice. There is nothing to suggest the soldiers did anything untoward.

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland condemned Mr Mason's remarks.

"This is a grossly offensive remark for which Mr Mason has deliberately not taken the opportunity to apologise for," said Mr McCausland. "The members of our Armed Forces who come from Scotland particularly deserve an explanation."

Last night Kris McGurk who runs the Three Scottish Soldiers Campaign for Justice said it was disappointing the MSP had chosen to make hurtful comments on social media rather than help his own constituents bring IRA killers to justice.

"I'm in his constituency, as are family members of Dougald McCaughey," said McGurk.

"Not once has John Mason picked up the phone to offer his support. Instead he gets involved in childish and offensive arguments on Twitter.

Responding to his critics last night, Mr Mason sent a statement to the Belfast Telegraph explaining his tweet, but stopped short of issuing an apology.

"All the points I made in the tweet were of a general nature and not specific to any particular case," he said.

"The question of who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist is a perennial and tricky one. William Wallace was considered by many Scots to be a freedom fighter but by the English to be a traitor or terrorist. There have been many other historical characters who've been viewed very differently by different sides.

"Again I am not making any comment on particular soldiers. The general point I am making is that I am opposed to the kind of narrow nationalism which says my side is always right and the other side is always wrong.

"It is for the courts and others to decide in a particular case who has done right and who has done wrong."

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