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Bloody Sunday prosecutions 'about politics, not justice' says Boris Johnson

 

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Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has said that any prosecutions against Army veterans serving on Bloody Sunday would be about politics, not justice.

Mr Johnson was speaking ahead of a decision being taken on whether to prosecute the soldiers on March 14.

On Saturday the Daily Telegraph reported that four ex-paratroopers, now in their 60s and 70s, fear being told they will face murder charges.

Thirteen people died when soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights marchers in Londonderry in January 1972, with a 14th victim dying later.

The Saville Inquiry concluded in 2010 that all those killed or injured were innocent.

 

Writing in the Telegraph on Sunday Mr Johnson said it "seems very likely" that charges will be brought against the soldiers involved on Bloody Sunday.

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A casualty is carried away on Bloody Sunday

A casualty is carried away on Bloody Sunday

A casualty is carried away on Bloody Sunday

The former Mayor of London said he believed this would cause a "storm of utter fury from the public".

"It feels sickening that we are persecuting these elderly men for doing what they thought was their duty – in uniform, under orders, as members of the Parachute Regiment," Mr Johnson wrote.

"What kind of a world is it – you may ask – where we can put former squaddies in the dock for murder, and simultaneously tell IRA killers that they can get away with it?

"Are we really proposing to send old soldiers to die in jail – after we gave dozens of wanted terrorists a get-out-of-jail-free card under the Good Friday Agreement? Is that balanced? Is that fair?"

However, the Conservative MP acknowledged that argument "does not in itself amount to a sufficient objection to a trial".

Mr Johnson wrote that it must be accepted there was a possibility a serious crime had been committed and that "no one – not even an essentially loyal and well-meaning British soldier – should in principle be exempt from justice".

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Soldiers in William Street on Bloody Sunday

Soldiers in William Street on Bloody Sunday

Soldiers in William Street on Bloody Sunday

He wrote that the main issue with any trial would be that there is no new evidence left to discover following the Saville Inquiry.

"The answer is that it is not about justice. It is about politics," Mr Johnson wrote.

"The objective is not to get to the truth of this episode, or any other. It is just meant to be a concession to Sinn Fein, a gesture to nationalist feeling, part of the complex politics of restarting provincial government at Stormont. It will cost millions."

He said that any trial would only achieve the "misery of a few old men" and send a "terrible warning" to anyone thinking of joining the armed services.

"They will know that they cannot rely on the Army, the MOD, the politicians or anyone else to protect them or show common sense. The whole thing is a disgrace, and should be disposed of as quietly and as speedily as possible," Mr Johnson wrote.

Foyle MP Elisha McCallion said Mr Johnson's comments were "disrespectful and hurtful" to the families of those killed.

"The remarks also showed disrespect to the ongoing court case into the massacre by attempting to preempt the legal outcome," the Sinn Fein representative said.

"What happened on Bloody Sunday was not a 'misjudgement' as Boris Johnson has claimed. It was murder and that's why there is an ongoing murder inquiry.

"The relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday have campaigned for truth and justice for decades and are entitled to justice.

"All relatives of those killed during the conflict are entitled to the truth over what happened to their loved ones and the British government need to step up and implement the legacy mechanisms already agreed."

After the findings of the Saville Inquiry Prime Minister David Cameron issued an official apology in the House of Commons for Bloody Sunday, describing the killings as "unjustified and unjustifiable".

Two years later, in 2012, the PSNI launched a murder investigation and passed the files to the PPS in 2016.

The police concluded that charges related to Bloody Sunday could be brought against 18 former soldiers.

The Public Prosecution Service will announce what action, if any, is to be taken against the soldiers on March 14.

Belfast Telegraph