Belfast Telegraph

I wish we could point fingers at commanders, says UUP war veteran Doug Beattie over Troubles soldiers' prosecutions

MLA says murdered soldiers and RUC should not be forgotten

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The UUP MLA and Army war veteran Doug Beattie has said soldiers suspected of Troubles crimes should face prosecution, but he "wished fingers could be pointed at" those commanders responsible, not just for the Army's actions but also those who directed terrorism.

He was speaking after weekend press reports suggested soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre were to be charged with murder. However, prosecutors in Northern Ireland warned over speculation saying they would announce their decision on the matter next week.

"I do have this fundamental problem," Doug Beattie, who was awarded the Military Cross for his service in Afghanistan, told the BBC Stephen Nolan show.

"It always seems to be the footsoldier who carries the can for decisions that were made at the higher levels. And I kind of wish we could point the fingers at those at the very top of the tree who made these decisions in the first place and then sent out the young men and woman to carry out their actions.

"And I mean that on both sides - both military and terrorists."

On the odd occasion when [the Army] go outside then they should face the law the same as everyone else.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, it's been reported, is expected to bring forward legislation to protect soldiers from prosecution for alleged historic abuses with a proposal for a 10-year time limit.

Upper Bann UUP MLA Beattie said there should no protection for soldiers from prosecution.

"The military in operations throughout the world adhere to the law of armed conflict. They adhere to military law, adhere to civil law and they adhere to the rules of engagement. And in 99% of the cases they work within that.

"On the odd occasion when they go outside then they should face the law the same as everyone else.

"Nobody is above the law."

He added: "So I don't think anyone should be given free passes in regard to this what we can do is we can take into account the circumstances of what happened we could look at what year and what was going on at the time of what happened and they can all be brought before the courts.

"Actions need to be tested and if they are tested in law, then they have to be tested in a law court."

We are looking at legacy piecemeal at the times.

Referring to royal pardons and the on-the-run comfort letters he said it was "absolutely right some terrorists had been let off, despite knowing of their involvement in crimes".

"There is a wider discussion here.... there is an imbalance here," he said.

"There were tens of thousands explosions in Northern Ireland and Great Britain and the vast majority of them were by republican terrorists. There's why you have so many going through jail

"You can argue that so many went through and you have to balance the books.  It doesn't work that way. What we need to have is balanced and fair proportionate system which looks at legacy in the round. 

"And what we are doing is we are looking at legacy piecemeal at the times and we can't do that."

Mr Beattie also pointed out there had been no "effective investigations" into the 185 soldiers murdered during the Troubles.  And the same for those in the RUC that were killed.

“When discussing the issue around the legacy of our Troubles the number 185 doesn’t jump out at you," he said.

"If I was to add that this is the number of murdered soldiers who have not had an effective investigation or inquest then again some, mainly from a republican, Sinn Fein background will just shrug their shoulders and say ‘so what’."

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