Belfast Telegraph

Ex-soldiers furious over MoD's Ballymuprhy 'witch hunt' letters

UUP MP Danny Kinahan said the development
UUP MP Danny Kinahan said the development "underpinned the need for a resolution on dealing with the past"

By Erinn Kerr

Former paratroopers who received letters from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) appealing for information about the 1971 Ballymurphy shootings have branded the investigation a "witch hunt".

In the letters, the MoD said it "may have" destroyed lists containing the names of soldiers who gave testimony to inquests shortly after Ballymurphy. A total of 10 people were killed in shootings and another suffered a heart attack during the confrontation.

Therefore, the MoD said it had been forced to write to dozens of men appealing for them to come forward with information.

One former soldier said everyone who served in Northern Ireland would be "looking over their shoulders". He told the Daily Mail all troops were following orders from their commanding officer at the time, and called the probe "the PSNI on a witch hunt."

"They should be ashamed of themselves for dragging this up," he added.

"The motive is the families seeking compensation and nothing to do with justice. In a combat situation it is to be killed or kill."

But the unnamed ex-soldier's comments have caused "great offence" to the victims families.

John Teggart, whose father Danny was killed at Ballymurphy, said he and his relatives have "no interest in compensation".

"We are simply trying to find out what happened that day," he added. "No one is, or should be, above the law and that's the way it should always be.

"Compensation has never been mentioned by us, and to bring it up is an insult.

"If there was criminal action by anyone in the Army, then all politicians on both sides should come together to condemn that."

The MoD apologised for the "unexpected arrival" of the letters to soldiers, some in their 70s, and for "any distress or shock it may have caused", adding that even if they were not involved, they "may have been involved in the security operation or have been a witness to the circumstances surrounding these deaths".

New inquests into the deaths of the civilians have been approved, but a date has not been set.

A spokesman said: "It is MoD policy to co-operate fully with all judicial processes in the UK, and a number of former soldiers have been written to seeking their assistance with PSNI's Bloody Sunday criminal investigation and the Ballymurphy inquest."

UUP MP Danny Kinahan said the development "underpinned the need for a resolution on dealing with the past".

He added: "I am deeply uncomfortable with soldiers who were doing their duty feeling as though they are under threat. The arrival of these letters and the investigation into both Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy is not a witch hunt, although I can see why soldiers may feel that way as they are the only ones being targeted.

"I have met with the families of those who died at Ballymurphy, and they deserve to know what happened to their loved ones, but this is not and should not be a one-sided thing.

"There needs to be openness, transparency and honesty on both sides so that we can find a way forward. We cannot go on like this."

Mr Kinahan also said he had concerns over whether proper and reliable evidence could be gathered to secure prosecutions so long after the event.

Belfast Telegraph


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