Belfast Telegraph

Defy republicans seeking to re-write history, Sammy Wilson tells PM over Troubles soldiers prosecutions

British Government can not subvert legacy proposals for own self interest - Sinn Fein

Theresa May has been told to stand by the armed forces and defy "republicans who are trying to re-write Northern Ireland history" as dozens of MPs write to the Prime Minister calling on her to drop plans to investigate military veterans accused of Troubles crimes.

However, Sinn Fein claim the government is attempting to subvert the interests of people in Northern Ireland to ensure its own survival.

A Government consultation paper, Addressing The Legacy Of Northern Ireland's Past, was launched in May on how a historic investigation could be carried out.

In a letter to Theresa May, 150 Tory MPs and peers say a new Historical Investigations Unit would put "service and security personnel at an exceptional disadvantage".

In July, more than 30 Tory MPs supported a backbench proposal for a 20-year time limit on reopening cases involving former members of the armed forces who served in Northern Ireland.

And, earlier this month, a cross-party group of Westminster politicians, including four former Northern Ireland secretaries, urged Karen Bradley to draw a line under the region's past.

Lord Hain and seven other signatories advised prioritising compensation for victims over investigation.

Speaking to the BBC Good Morning Ulster programme, MP Sammy Wilson said: "Theresa May has to stand by the armed forces and she has to defy and stand up against those people especially on the republican side in Northern Ireland who are trying to re-write history to give the impression - as Gerry Kelly has done - that the main protagonists in the terrorist campaign and which people suffered for over 30 years was the British government rather than the terrorists who skulked behind hedges and blew up unarmed individuals when they were going about their shopping and I think she has got to make sure there is no arrangement put in place which allows republicans to re-write history of troubles."

Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said it was an attempt by the "hard right" in Westminster to undermine previously agreed legacy proposals "by having special arrangements for ex-soldiers" and was motivated by self-interest in terms of the Government's survival in terms of it approach to Brexit and reliance on support of the DUP.

"Interesting they don't seem to be making the same case for those in the RUC," he said.

"Nonetheless there can not be an amnesty for one set of people. The legacy mechanisms are those that we agreed at Stormont House, they are currently out to consultation, they need to be implemented there has already been an unacceptable delay and the money for the Lord Chief Justice needs to be released."

He added: "We need to see the legacy issues resolved, they have been an ongoing sore for so many people who want to see some attempt at closure for the ongoing pain and suffering they have. It could well be subverted by the British Government own interest in terms of its Brexit approach.

"That would be a huge injustice to all those victims and a huge injustice for all those parties who agreed the legacy mechanisms at Stormont House.

"The British Government need to stop subverting own interests in their own and get on with providing some degree of comfort for people here."

The past has been one of the sticking points between the DUP and Sinn Fein through several rounds of failed talks to agree the return of powersharing at Stormont.

The pursuit of former soldiers has also sparked outrage among veterans, particularly following the arrest of pensioner Dennis Hutchings.

Mr Hutchings, a 77-year-old former member of the Life Guards regiment, is accused in relation to the fatal shooting of a man with learning difficulties in 1974.

The Daily Express reported on Monday that he is refusing treatment for kidney disease for fear it would get his case dismissed on medical grounds.

Mr Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, is due to stand trial in Belfast charged with attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent. He denies the charges.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, was shot in the back in Co Armagh as he ran away from an Army patrol. His family argued that he ran across a field because he feared men in uniform.

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