Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Hunt backtracks after saying veterans and Provos should be treated the same

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty O’Connor)
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty O’Connor)
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has backtracked on comments he made saying that British army veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles should be treated "the same" as IRA terrorists.

The Foreign Secretary, who is competing with Boris Johnson to be the next Prime Minister, made the comments during a digital husting.

He said: "The main thing and I want to be honest about this, you know, the peace in Northern Ireland was hard won and under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, there is a need to treat both sides in the same way, however angry we may have felt about what happened."

After the DUP had written to Mr Hunt to complain about the comments, a statement was released clarifying his position on the matter.

A spokesperson said: "Jeremy again set out his strong desire to resolve the injustice of historic prosecutions faced by our brave veterans.

"He has always been totally clear there is no moral equivalence between the actions of terrorists who seek to kill and maim, and soldiers who acted to promote peace and protect the public."

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday morning that he would be happy to meet Mr Hunt to discuss the matter.

"What the people of Northern Ireland have had to put up with is watch the terrorists, who were responsible for so much murder and mayhem, being given an easy ride and few of them being brought before the courts," he said.

"Whereas the focus of much of the legacy work has been on the army and the police.

"That isn't equal and that is the problem with the current system and the sooner Jeremy Hunt acquaints himself with that reality, perhaps the sooner he will revise his position."

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, a former soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said there is no equivalence between security forces and the terrorists they were trying to thwart.

"The problem we currently face is that terrorists have been given letters of comfort and Royal Pardons whilst retired service personnel are being brought in front of the courts," he said.

“The law must be applied equally and fairly and that has patently not been the case.”

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