Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May accused of 'throwing veterans to the wolves' to pander to IRA

Mark Francois in the Commons (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)
Mark Francois in the Commons (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

By Alain Tolhurst and Josh Thomas

Theresa May has been accused of "throwing veterans to the wolves" to pander to Sinn Fein and the IRA.

Tory Mark Francois read a letter from an ex-soldier and Chelsea Pensioner during Prime Minister's Questions as a number of MPs attacked the Government over potential police investigations into actions by members of the armed forces during the Troubles.

He told the chamber it came from Northern Ireland veteran David Griffin, a "Dublin-born Irish Catholic who joined the British Army" who in 1972 killed an IRA gunman who was "about to assassinate a comrade on a guard post".

Mr Francois said that 47 years later Mr Griffin is being investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and wanted to ask the PM: "I served my Queen and country in uniform for over 20 years and was commended for my service in Northern Ireland.

"Acting under the lawful orders of my officer commanding I killed a terrorist who was about to murder one of my comrades, yet I am being investigated like I am a criminal.

"The IRA have letters of comfort, we don't. Why are you pandering to Sinn Fein/IRA while you throw veterans like me to the wolves?"

The MP finished by saying: "What is your answer to this Chelsea Pensioner and all the veterans he represents?"

The PM said it is "not the case that the terrorists have an amnesty", and the proposals were about having a "fair and just system".

She said: "We want to see a system where investigations can take place in a lawful manner and the results can be upheld and will not be reopened in the future, and in order to do that we need to change the current system."

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who served in Northern Ireland, asked the PM how he can tell old military colleagues "that this Government has not abandoned them".

A new exhibition revealing the desolation and destruction experienced during the Troubles will be launched in Belfast next week.
A new exhibition revealing the desolation and destruction experienced during the Troubles will be launched in Belfast next week.
Photographer Sean Hillen. Credit Greg Dunn.
At The Field. I like this image of the twin boys in their sashes. Twins always have a funny effect in any photo because it reminds the brain of a trick or illusion of some kind.
Mourners line a wall at the funeral in Derry of hunger-striker Patsy O'Hara
I was fascinated by this burnt-out shell of a bus effectively jamming an access road to the Divis Flats. My father was a bus driver and I was curious to see what the bus was made of its interesting that the steel frame is left while the body, which is aluminium and plastic, has burned away.
A group of youths at the head of the parade dance extravagantly for my camera. Note the Olympic Boot Factory in the background (named after the Olympic ocean liner, sister-ship to the Titanic), along with the ubiquitous policeman.
This lady is walking past what had been the Clonard Picture House on the Falls Road (opened in 1913), with the remains of the foyer swept back in off the pavement. Note the black flag, which was part of the campaign over the Republican prisoners, and the furniture for sale, which may have been a result of people losing their homes.
This Union Jack and enticing advertisement were at the front of a Baptist church at the northern edge of Newry town centre. I took an even nicer frame before this photo, with one Orangeman pointing his umbrella at the sign, but the negative was sadly too badly scratched to be repaired.
The next few photos are of the Belfast Twelfth parade, taken in my first year of art school in 1979. This man was a familiar sight in Belfast at that time. I found him here in a prominent position on Royal Avenue, with the City Hall in the far background.
I love this photo of two young Orangemen relaxed enough to lie back and contemplate the sky after the parade.
The people standing around this boarded-up bar in West Belfast told me that the night before a British Army armoured car had driven through the corner doorway, demolishing it.
Later the same day I passed the bar again and found this man rebuilding it.
My attention was particularly taken by the girls Country and Western style outfit. This family was waiting to watch the parade pass down Sandy Street in Newry.
An older Orangeman rests against the chip van in 'the field' outside Newry, mid 1980's
Patsy OHaras funeral had a uniquely double or joint colour party of IRA as well as INLA members. A journalist friend noticed that there were women among them.
Young supporters would accompany the parade, singing and dancing along to the band music. Outside the old Co-Operative building in Royal Avenue I spotted these two girls. The one on the right has just bought a record from Easons, my bet is Rod Stewart.
I clambered on to a scaffolding platform erected for the press and found a space at the rail, which gave a pretty good view as the funeral proceeded. I had brought along what was known as a portrait lens; a fixed, slightly longfocus lens with a wide aperture, good in low light. I made use of it here and was struck that I could see the eyes of this individual so clearly.
Patsy O'Hara Funeral.
1992 Easter Parade. The Easter Parade has arrived at the entrance to the graveyard and the cohort of police vehicles pulls in ahead of it.
Patsy O'Hara Funeral The harrowed and grief-stricken expression of the lady still seems to me both tragic and sobering.
This youth asserted that he had been injured by a plastic bullet.
Around 1983 or 84 I photographed this Annual Procession of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. It is, as far as I can see, a sort of social club for ordinary Catholics and at its roots has a romantic and Catholic Nationalist tendency. When I arrived they were assembling in the lee of the church for this group photo, which made my project easier.
Two old men on a bench and a Marine Commando playing with his safety-catch of his rifle, at Sugar Island in the centre of Newry Co. Down, on a Twelfth of July around 1985. Newry was over 90% Catholic and the occasion would be tense with very few people were on the streets but police and soldiers. I spotted this scene and mentally framed the picture. It was illegal by definition to photograph 'the Security Forces' so I asked the soldier 'can I take a picture' and I think he nodded, so I fired one frame (shooting 35mm black-and-white film very sparingly), then I waited, shot another one, waited again and then the man in the middle looked up and that's my picture. Someone told me he's a Marine Commando and he's playing with the safety-catch of the rifle. From The SeaÃÅn Hillen Collection of photographs recently acquired by the National Library of Ireland Photographic Archive
Hunger Strike March While hanging around a busy junction in a crowd of people waiting for the march, I struck up a conversation with this lady, who was quite animated and talkative
view of the Mass Rock altar and the crowd assembling for the Mass Rock event in the Mourne Mountains, mid-1980s.

She responded: "We absolutely value the service that he and others did in Northern Ireland. This was a very difficult time for a part of the United Kingdom and the work that police did and that the armed forces did in Northern Ireland during that time was absolutely crucial.

"We want to ensure there is a fair and just system that is working across the board to deal with these legacy issues.

"But what is happening at the moment is that there is a disproportionate emphasis in terms of cases that involve the police and the armed forces.

"There are cases involving terrorists that are being looked into but I think people would recognise that there is a disproportionate focus on the police and forces.

"What is important is that we therefore bring in a system that has full support and will enable people to see fairness and justice being applied."

Another Tory MP, Owen Paterson (North Shropshire), said: "None of those people who served want a blanket amnesty," adding what they want is "categorical assurance prosecuting authorities will not bring forward fresh prosecutions unless there is categorical clear new evidence".

In response to the former Northern Ireland secretary, the PM said there have been a number of processes aiming to deal with "deaths during the Troubles, but all of the processes so far have been found to be flawed in some way".

Earlier the Government was told by a Conservative MP and former soldier that it should be "ashamed" of its treatment of Northern Ireland veterans.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) said they needed better protection from prosecution.

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