SNP Nicola Sturgeon must back justice campaign for three Scottish soldiers murdered by IRA
SNP leader has a duty to the families who have suffered for so long with nobody charged, says Nelson McCausland
Last week, there was some media coverage of the shocking comments made by a Scottish National Party politician about the murders of three young Scottish soldiers at White Brae, on the northern outskirts of Belfast, in March 1971.
Two of the soldiers were teenage brothers and the three victims were off duty and unarmed when they were abducted and murdered by the Provisional IRA. They were the fourth, fifth and sixth soldiers to die, but the first to be killed off duty.
The murders shocked both Ulster and Scotland and there was a wave of revulsion across the United Kingdom. Afterwards, the coroner said: “You may think that this was not only murder, but one of the vilest crimes ever heard of in living memory.”
A Belfast Telegraph editorial commented: “After all the horrors of recent weeks and months, Ulster people have almost lost the capacity for feeling shock, but the ruthless murder of three defenceless young soldiers has cut to the quick. These were cold-blooded executions.”
So far, no one has been brought to justice for the brutal killings and the families of the young men are still awaiting justice.
In November 2007, a London-based newspaper reported that three IRA men were responsible for the murders and identified Patrick McAdorey, from Ardoyne, who was killed later in 1971 during a gun battle with the Army.
The paper also named veteran republican Martin Meehan, who died in 2007, and said there was a third killer, who had moved across the border into the Irish Republic.
Last month, the families of the three soldiers launched a campaign to expose the killers and said they had a right to know the truth.
They also want to see anyone suspected of the crime and living in the Irish Republic extradited back to the United Kingdom. In this, they are working with a London-based firm of lawyers who assisted the Omagh bomb campaign.
John Mason MSP, an SNP politician, who represents a constituency in Glasgow, was approached to support the families’ campaign. Some of the relatives of one victim live in his constituency.
He should have been eager and willing to give that support, but instead he tweeted that one man’s terrorist is another man’s “freedom fighter”.
Apart from Sinn Fein politicians, I would have hoped that no other MP, MSP, or whatever, would even consider the use of the term “freedom fighters”, but sadly John Mason gave the response he did.
There was outrage, but it was only this week that the controversy received the media coverage it deserves.
Faced with a public outcry, senior figures in the SNP intervened and Mason has now issued an “apology”. There was also an extremely weak statement from the SNP, but in fact actions speak louder than words, even words of apology.
This controversy arose from an appeal for support for the families of the three soldiers in their campaign for justice. So, where does the SNP, as a party, stand on this? This goes beyond an individual to the party he represents and right to the top in that party.
The three young men who were murdered by Irish republican terrorists were young Scottish soldiers, who came from Scottish families and they were Scottish hearts that were broken.
Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister of Scotland and, as leader of the Scottish National Party, as well as First Minister, she has a personal duty in this matter.
She must make it absolutely and specifically clear that the SNP will not tolerate any of its representatives ever referring to the Provisional IRA as “freedom fighters”.
As First Minister of Scotland, she also has a particular duty to these families, who have lived with the hurt of those brutal murders for the past 45 years, with no justice and no one in court.
Nicola Sturgeon should take up their case, meet with those who are campaigning for justice, throw her support wholeheartedly behind their campaign, and endorse it on behalf of her party and her government.