Nationalists say DUP is making a liar out of May over PM's claims of witch-hunt against veterans
The Prime Minister has clashed with nationalist politicians over her claim that the system for investigating soldiers and police in Troubles-related incidents is "patently unfair".
Theresa May yesterday claimed some paramilitaries were not being pursued, as senior Conservative MPs hit out at suggested proposals which fail to offer former soldiers immunity from prosecution in legacy cases.
But SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly branded the Prime Minister's remarks as "scandalous" and said statistics completely contradicted her claim.
A statute of limitations offering former soldiers and police officers immunity from prosecution is not expected to be in the Government's draft legacy proposals.
Instead, Mrs May seems set to opt for the DUP suggestion of a new law covering several wars and conflicts in order to ensure former paramilitaries don't benefit from an amnesty.
The Prime Minister said: "The situation we have at the moment is that the only people being investigated for these issues that happened in the past are those in our Armed Forces or those who served in law enforcement in Northern Ireland - that is patently unfair.
"Terrorists are not being investigated, terrorists should be investigated and that is what the Government wants to see."
But Mrs Kelly hit back: "While we all know the British Government isn't one for dealing in facts, let me remind Mrs May that the official PSNI released figures in 2017 showed that investigations into killings by the Army accounted for only approximately 30% of its legacy workload.
"The majority of investigations were attributed to killings carried out by republicans and loyalists."
She said Mrs May's claim was due to the "chokehold" the DUP had on her government.
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said a statute of limitations for the Armed Forces should also cover conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. "A statute of limitations is a much broader issue. We believe it should be dealt with separately from the legacy proposals," he said.
"If you introduce a statute of limitations which relates only to Northern Ireland and our troubled past, organisations like the IRA would then press for an amnesty for their members and we believe it would be completely unacceptable to equate members of the Armed Forces with members of an illegal terrorist organisation." Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie described the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) as at best a grave miscalculation by the Government and at worst a betrayal of the RUC and the Army.
"Only the state has records, so inevitably the HIU's focus will be on the police and Army because no equivalent records exist for the IRA or loyalist terrorist groups, who between them were responsible for 90% of Troubles-related killings," he said. "This suits those who wish to rewrite the past and portray the state, police and Army as the villains of the piece.
"But it does a massive disservice to those who put on uniforms and bravely stood between the terrorists and those they sought to terrorise."
Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill said the Government had committed to begin a consultation on a draft legacy Bill, and a paper had been circulated to the political parties with the expectation that it would be published this week.
"However, it is now being reported that it could be delayed yet again due to opposition within the clearly dysfunctional British Tory Cabinet. That simply isn't good enough," she said.
"Victims have already been waiting far too long and they should not be held to ransom by Tory party in-fighting."