Belfast Telegraph

Probe of Troubles killings by Army 'political': Collins

By Claire McNeilly

War hero Tim Collins has branded plans to investigate military veterans accused of Troubles crimes as a farce that threatens Northern Ireland's peace process.

The Belfast-born former Royal Irish Regiment commander added that the proposed formation of an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) was a "purely political" decision that had nothing to do with the pursuit of justice.

Colonel Collins, who fought in the Iraq War in 2003, said he agreed with 150 Conservative MPs and peers who have written to Theresa May urging her to shelve the potential investigation of past crimes by military personnel here.

It follows the launch in May of a Government consultation paper - Addressing The Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past - which dealt with how historic inquiries could be carried out.

Mr Collins warned that the Government "has rolled over to Sinn Fein and the republican movement" by giving the proposals any serious thought.

"What it's doing is equating murder with protecting the public and those aren't compatible," said the decorated veteran.

"This is a political issue that needs political resolve and it's up to the Prime Minister to say it's now off the table because of the acts of bad faith constantly from Sinn Fein, who've failed to hold up their end of the bargain."

Mr Collins (58) also opposes a statute of limitations "because that in itself suggests there was wrongdoing by the security forces, which is simply not true".

"This proposal has never been viable. It's only ever been political, it's never been about justice, it's always been about politics.

"It's about time the Prime Minister said that Northern Ireland - which is a very backward place - needs to be dragged into the future and so the money should go towards jobs, children and health and there should be an end to inquiries."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the "real danger in all of this" lies in creating "an equivalence between a soldier killing and a terrorist killing".

"A lot of the Tories who signed this letter are fearful that no distinction is made between a terrorist murder and a soldier doing their job," Mr Wilson said.

"Anybody a terrorist kills is murder in the eyes of the State and the eyes of the law and there was never any justification for it.

"However, some people want to build up a picture that the security forces, soldiers and police, were the real culprits and the terrorists were the people who had to react to State violence."

Another Army hero, Doug Beattie, said the premise upon which the HIU is based makes "absolutely no sense". "Nobody is above the law. If you deliberately break the law, be you a policeman, a soldier, a member of the public or a politician, you must face the law," said the UUP MLA.

"But the problem is that this process is naturally skewed towards the investigation of the state.

"We had 47,000 victims and they are only going to investigate 1,700.

"Of those 1,700 they're going to investigate every single soldier again while at the same time terrorists are walking about with royal pardons and on-the-run letters, and we now have convicted terrorists in every aspect of government and yet for some reason this HIU is going to focus its investigations on the State.

"It's absolutely farcical. The Ulster Unionist Party believes the HIU does not work. It is not good for victims."

Reacting to the letter, Sinn Fein victims' spokeswoman Linda Dillon said there can be "no attempt to introduce an amnesty for British forces".

"The mechanisms agreed at Stormont House must be implemented and the subsequent legislation must deliver if it is to meet the needs of families and deliver on the promise of the Stormont House Agreement," she said.

"Sinn Fein will continue to support the families in their pursuit of truth and justice."

SDLP policing and justice spokeswoman Dolores Kelly said all perpetrators of violent atrocities during the Troubles must be held accountable.

"The British Government cannot legislate for any amnesty for British armed forces or any other violent perpetrators," she said.

"Victims and survivors of the Troubles deserve truth and justice. The British State and others must deliver that justice."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph