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Unionists criticise SDLP MP Eastwood for naming Soldier F in parliament 

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Victims James Wray and William McKinney

Victims James Wray and William McKinney

PA

Victims James Wray and William McKinney

Unionists have accused Colum Eastwood of putting a former paratrooper’s life at risk after the SDLP leader used parliamentary privilege to name Soldier F in the House of Commons.

Soldier F had been accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney on January 30, 1972, after troops had fired on civil rights demonstrators in the Bogside area of Londonderry and killed 13 people.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) had planned to withdraw the charges over the inadmissibility of key evidence, but a legal challenge has been taken against the decision and proceedings are ongoing. In June, a judge had approved an application to keep Soldier F anonymous and accepted evidence that the threat level against him could increase if he was named.

Foyle MP Mr Eastwood used the legal protection to identify the former paratrooper during a debate on the Armed Forces Bill.

Mr Eastwood told MPs: "Almost 50 years ago, 14 unarmed civil rights marchers were murdered on the streets of Derry by the Parachute Regiment."

He then made allegations against Soldier F and stated a name, not included here for legal reasons.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP in House of Commons

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP in House of Commons

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP in House of Commons

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Mr Eastwood added: "For 50 years he's been granted anonymity. Now the Government wants to give him an amnesty. Does the shadow minister agree with me that nobody, none of the perpetrators involved in murder during our Troubles should be granted an amnesty?"

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie and DUP MP Sammy Wilson accused Mr Eastwood of placing Soldier F's life at risk.

Mr Wilson said the use of parliamentary privilege to name the former soldier was "cowardly and dangerous", adding: "He has put the life of an elderly gentleman at risk in a selfish attempt to out green Sinn Fein. A disgraceful stunt with potentially severe consequences.”

Mr Beattie said: "And this achieves what? Stupid just stupid… A life placed at risk for a bit of ‘look at me’ politics."

Former veterans minister and Tory MP Johnny Mercer called Mr Eastwood’s actions “unnecessary and dangerous”. He said the SDLP man should be sanctioned.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: “Colum Eastwood’s actions are reckless and downright dangerous. I will be writing to the Speaker and the Commissioner for Standards. The Foyle MP's behaviour falls well below that expected of someone in his position especially when the courts have made clear that to name this person could jeopardise life."

Mr Eastwood later told the BBC he named Soldier F “because for 50 years, almost, the victims of Bloody Sunday have had to struggle for truth and justice”.


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