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Soldiers and police ‘disproportionately’ targeted in Troubles legacy investigations:  DUP’s Sir Jeffery Donaldson

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

A DUP MP has said soldiers and police officers who served during the Troubles are being “disproportionately” targeted in legacy investigations.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was speaking amidst the fallout of the resignation of the former Conservative defence minister Johnny Mercer, as the DUP MP urged the government to bring forward a “comprehensive” approach to dealing with legacy.

Johnny Mercer quit as UK defence minister on Tuesday due to his frustration at a lack of progress over legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles.

Mr Mercer had been leading the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill through the House of Commons.

The Bill seeks to limit false and historical allegations arising from overseas operations by introducing a statutory presumption against prosecution, making it exceptional for personnel to be prosecuted five years or more after an incident – but does not cover incidents in Northern Ireland.

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In an interview with BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday following his resignation, the MP said veterans of the Troubles were being "neglected” and accused Boris Johnson’s government of creating an “awful environment”.

“Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing there is absolutely no hiding place in the military. But the experiences we are putting our veterans through in an attempt to, in my view, rewrite history, is unacceptable,” he added.

The DUP’s MP for Lagan Valley, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, called on the government to “honour its commitment" to veterans of the army and police force in Northern Ireland.

“The focus of legacy investigations is disproportionately on the army and the police,” he told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster on Thursday.

“We have thousands of victims who are not having the opportunity to have their cases looked at and they are the victims whose loved ones were murdered by paramilitary terrorist organisations.

“We have the Police Ombudsman, investigating legacy cases linked solely to the police. We have Operation Kenova, which is looking into allegations of collusion by the police and the army. We have the legacy inquests, the vast majority of which are focused on the police and the army.

“When you consider that of all the killings that took place in the Troubles, over 90% were murders committed by paramilitary terrorist organisations.

“Less than 10% are attributable to the army and the police. We are saying this is unacceptable, we cannot go on like this.”

The MP added that there needed to be a “comprehensive approach” to legacy issues and said measures should be introduced that protect those who “served their country”.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson told MPs the Government would be "bringing forward further measures in due course".

Arguing there has already been agreement on proposals to deal with Troubles legacy cases in previous Stormont agreements, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said there needed to be “accountability” for victims of state forces.

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Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly

“We have to listen to the victims here. I have spoken to many of them, it is not that they are unrealistic,” he said.

“What this is about is accountability for actions. They [victims] want to know, not just the truth, but they want an investigation which they can stand over.

“I’m saying we should move ahead with the Stormont House agreement structures. What is happening here is they [DUP] are trying to say the only victims that count are those soldiers who may be prosecuted.

“After signing the agreement, the DUP are walking away and trying to get something entirely different. The point is we had an agreement.

“What about those victims who have been waiting, some of them for 50 years, 40 years, 30 years - for some sort of truth and justice. Surely that is at the core of it.”


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