New IRA no different from Provos, says Charlie Lawson
Coronation Street star Charlie Lawson, who is acting as an ambassador for a huge summer commemoration to honour police and army veterans of the Troubles, says there is nothing dissident about the New IRA terrorists who killed journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry.
"They're just the same old, same old as far as I am concerned," said Lawson, who used the words of Gerry Adams to claim: "They haven't gone away."
The Enniskillen actor said he was "humbled" to have been asked to play a role in the August 17 events paying tribute to police and army veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Thousands of former members of the security forces, along with ex-prison officers and retired emergency service personnel are expected to descend on Lisburn for a drumhead service and parade to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of Operation Banner, the name for the British Army's deployment here from 1969 to 2007.
Fifty-nine-year-old Lawson, who plays Jim McDonald in the TV soap, will fly in next Tuesday to take part in the press launch for the parade organised by the Northern Ireland Veterans Association (NIVA), who are inviting all servicemen and women to take part in the commemoration.
Lawson said: "My family are all from the services. All through my life relatives have been associated with the armed forces and I have done everything I can to support veterans over the last 30 years.
"So when the association asked me to be an ambassador for the commemoration in August I had no hesitation in saying yes.
"It's the least I can do. I have always stood my ground in defence of the people who served here," added Lawson who has campaigned for more help to be given to the men and women who served here during the Troubles and to families whose loved ones died.
"I didn't lose any relations in the Troubles but I know many people who were affected by the violence. Even as a child I was very much aware of what was going on. When we lived in Fermanagh we owed a great debt of gratitude to the security forces for providing the security they did.
"My own father, who was a unionist politician, was considered a target. I also know that my mother lost friends in the Enniskillen bombing."
NIVA who have expressed concerns about the recent charging of soldiers with murders here, have said that the August commemoration will be primarily a day for reflection on the losses sustained by the security forces and other services during the Troubles.
The official figures for Army, police and prison service deaths stand at just over 1,200 but research by NIVA has uncovered the names of 2,400 men and women who they say died not only in terrorist attacks but also as a result of suicide and stress related illnesses.
"I'm only too aware of post-traumatic stress disorder. I know personally of people who are getting no help. It makes me very angry," said Lawson who is on record as saying that he didn't meet a Catholic until he was 20 when one of his first friends "from the other side" was fellow Fermanagh actor Adrian Dunbar, currently starring in the hit TV series, Line of Duty
"We're still close friends and we've never had a cross word during 40 years about what happened back home," said Lawson who uses social media to keep up to date with developments in Northern Ireland.
He added: "I knew there was trouble in the Creggan estate even before journalist Lyra McKee was killed. That was shocking and I see graffiti has gone up on the walls supporting the New IRA. To me there's nothing dissident about them. They're the same old same old as far as I am concerned."
On a lighter note on the subject of Adrian Dunbar, Lawson said: "Don't ask me if he's H. I'm not saying a word."