Jeremy Hunt unfit to be PM after he put Provos on par with veterans: bomb victim’s son
The son of a former RUC officer killed in the Enniskillen bomb has claimed Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt is unfit to become Prime Minister after he said Army veterans who served here should be treated "in the same way" as IRA members.
Mr Hunt's comments were also denounced by the brother of a man murdered at Kingsmill and a minister whose father and uncle were killed by republicans.
The Foreign Minister, who is vying with Boris Johnson for the Tory leadership, made the comments during a digital hustings on Wednesday night.
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."
Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was killed in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb said: "Jeremy Hunt's remarks are absolutely disgraceful.
"I am dismayed that any equation would be made on any level between the terrorists who murdered him, and my father and all the other brave men and women who put on the uniform to fight against terrorism.
"Would it be acceptable to equate our soldiers with Al Qaeda terrorists? Perish the thought that this man could become our Prime Minister."
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was one of 10 Protestants shot dead by the IRA in the 1976 Kingsmill massacre, said: "I believe that if there is evidence of wrongdoing, then former security force members should face charges. But in no way can you ever compare soldiers to republican and loyalist terrorists.
"Soldiers did not set out with the intention to kill people, terrorists did. And those terrorists have too often got off lightly with royal pardons and OTR (on the run) letters."
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said: "Jeremy Hunt has miscalculated the impact the remarks he made would have within the veterans' community, other victims and survivors and moreover, the anti-violence Northern Ireland population in general.
"He clearly believes that in making these remarks that he will ingratiate himself with middle England and Tory rank-and-file members concerned by what they consider to be the unfair treatment of military veterans."
Mr Donaldson added: "The overwhelming majority of the ex-security force constituency carried out their role with honour and integrity and must never be placed in the same breath as terrorists.
"We must have a reconfiguration of the justice scales whereby what limited justice remains is accessible on an equal basis to all innocent wronged over the years of the terrorist campaign."
Mark Tipper, whose brother Simon was killed in the IRA's 1982 Hyde Park bombing, wrote to Mr Hunt to express his anger.
"Next time you think our brave military personnel are only the same as the IRA take a look inside the Household Cavalry Museum at Trooper Tipper's ceremonial helmet and hang your head in shame," he said.
"Tell all of the victims who are still fighting for justice that you are willing to do the right thing if you become Prime Minister and support all victims of terrorists. Maybe one day someone in Downing Street will stand up for us all and give aid - whether it be financially or finding more ways of involving the victims who understand the pain and hurt."
Rev Alan Irwin, whose father Thomas and uncle Fred were part-time UDR members shot dead by the IRA, branded Mr Hunt's remarks "abhorrent".
He said: "For someone who is a future Tory Party leader, a future Prime Minister, to hold these views is beyond belief. There can be no equation between the terrorist, who set out to murder and main, and the security forces whose job was to uphold the law. To make any equation demeans and diminishes justice.
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would be "happy to meet with Mr Hunt" to discuss the matter. He described the idea that there has been equal treatment of former soldiers and terrorists as a "nonsense".
He said: "What the people of Northern Ireland have had to put up with is watching 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. 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."
UUP MLA Doug Beattie called on Mr Hunt to clarify his remarks. He said "there is no equivalence between the security forces - the lawful forces of the State - and the terrorists they were trying to thwart, any more than there is equivalence between a police force and the muggers, burglars and rapists they are trying to catch".