Belfast Telegraph

MP's 'blood on carpet' remark over Troubles prosecutions criticised

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer
Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer
Kate Nash
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Conservative MP and former soldier has been criticised for saying "there will be blood on the carpet" over the issue of prosecuting members of the armed forces.

Johnny Mercer, the Government's Veterans Minister and MP for Plymouth, made the remarks in an online post outlining his goals for 2020.

He named his top priority as ending "vexatious historical prosecutions".

"A defining issue for me; PM has tasked me with it... almost everyone says it can't be done, including other ministers," he posted

"There will be blood on the carpet, but blokes and girls deserve it. Crack on."

His comments follow a pledge by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to end prosecution of Troubles veterans, by changing the Human Rights Act so it does not apply to cases before 2000.

Mr Mercer's choice of language was yesterday called "irresponsible" by Kate Nash, whose brother William McKinney was 19 when he was shot dead in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday.

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On the 'blood on the carpet' phrase, she said: "I think it's very odd. What it's saying to me is that he would expect plenty of complaints.

"But are we not the people that put them in government, to actually defend and help us?

"It's not fair to the rest of society that certain people can go out and commit crimes and not be prosecuted for it."

She added: "Calling a prosecution 'vexatious' is something that's been used before as well.

"I say he certainly will not be able to do that (end prosecutions) because there's a good number of people that I know, and I'm one of them, that would challenge that in the courts if he dares to try and put security forces above the law.

"It wouldn't meet the human rights criteria, no one can be above the law."

In March last year, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced there was enough evidence to charge an ex-British soldier (known as Soldier F) for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney as well as the attempted murder of four other people in connection to Bloody Sunday.

Mrs Nash said senior government figures had effectively "interfered" in a live court case by speaking out against the PPS decision at the time.

"They have no respect for the Irish people," she said.

"No decent, just society should allow that.

"Johnny Mercer says it's vexatious, but his comments vex me. It's very, very irresponsible talking like this when we should be trying to put people's minds at rest."

Mr Mercer was contacted for a response, but one had not been received at the time of going to press.

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