07/03/2017 Spotlight


07/03/2017

With British Army veterans set to be tried for Troubles killings, Mandy McAuley meets their comrades campaigning to stop the cases.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Right, can everybody hear me at the back?

1:36:271:36:30

-SHOUTING

-Can you hear me?

1:36:301:36:33

We're going to move off to Number 10.

1:36:331:36:36

These men are British Army veterans of the Troubles.

1:36:361:36:40

The way we're going to do it is in an orderly fashion.

1:36:401:36:44

Former soldiers on the march.

1:36:441:36:47

Proud to have served the Queen.

1:36:471:36:50

But now, angrily challenging the very state they served

1:36:521:36:56

in Northern Ireland.

1:36:561:36:57

There's a foul smell that emanates from that house over there.

1:36:571:37:01

SHOUTS OF AGREEMENT

1:37:011:37:02

It's the smell of fear.

1:37:051:37:08

It's the smell of cowardice.

1:37:081:37:10

It's the smell of betrayal.

1:37:101:37:12

They are betraying us

1:37:121:37:14

because they don't care.

1:37:141:37:16

This former member of the SAS stormed the Iranian Embassy

1:37:211:37:25

in London in 1980.

1:37:251:37:28

Now speaking out against the Government,

1:37:281:37:31

his hand shook as he called for an end to investigations

1:37:311:37:34

of Army killings.

1:37:341:37:36

Margaret Thatcher would turn in her grave!

1:37:371:37:40

SHOUTS OF AGREEMENT

1:37:401:37:42

She would turn in her grave to see what is happening to her boys today.

1:37:481:37:54

Thank you.

1:37:561:37:57

Old soldiers marching on Downing Street

1:38:021:38:05

isn't really much of a threat to the Government,

1:38:051:38:07

but it does illustrate the political minefield

1:38:071:38:11

opening up in front of Theresa May.

1:38:111:38:14

The veterans want to stop new investigations

1:38:171:38:20

into Army killings during the Troubles.

1:38:201:38:23

They have been energised by a scathing Parliamentary report

1:38:231:38:26

that forced the Government to shut down

1:38:261:38:28

the Iraq Historical Allegations Team, known as IHAT,

1:38:281:38:33

after allegations that it had turned into a witch-hunt against soldiers.

1:38:331:38:37

They now want a similar intervention in Northern Ireland,

1:38:391:38:43

just when Mrs May and her Government

1:38:431:38:45

have to figure out how to put Stormont back together again.

1:38:451:38:49

The Prime Minister could be forgiven

1:38:511:38:53

for thinking that her predecessors had dealt with Northern Ireland.

1:38:531:38:57

But now it's dropping back on to the political agenda.

1:38:571:39:02

Good morning, comrades. I'm delighted to be here...

1:39:021:39:05

Jeffrey Donaldson wants a statute of limitations

1:39:051:39:08

that would stop police from reinvestigating incidents

1:39:081:39:12

involving soldiers from decades ago.

1:39:121:39:14

What we're talking about here are historic investigations,

1:39:171:39:20

investigations that in some cases go back over 40 years.

1:39:201:39:25

They've been investigated by the police,

1:39:251:39:28

and the statute of limitations would relate

1:39:281:39:31

to reopening investigations.

1:39:311:39:33

But Sinn Fein says the soldiers are looking for special treatment.

1:39:351:39:39

There's an accountability deficit we're dealing with here.

1:39:411:39:45

What we're dealing with, the vast majority of these

1:39:451:39:48

state killings were done by the British Army,

1:39:481:39:51

and frankly they have been acting with impunity,

1:39:511:39:54

and now what we're hearing from MPs over in Westminster, and others,

1:39:541:39:59

including some Unionists, is saying that they should have immunity.

1:39:591:40:02

And these are the people who stated

1:40:021:40:04

that they were absolutely against immunity,

1:40:041:40:06

and they're trying to legalise it.

1:40:061:40:07

You cannot legalise immunity for murder.

1:40:071:40:10

This man is the immediate focus of the veterans' campaign.

1:40:121:40:16

Dennis Hutchings, like the other former soldiers, is angry.

1:40:191:40:23

The majority of our MPs from this and previous governments,

1:40:231:40:30

and I also include those buggers who sit in the MOD,

1:40:301:40:34

have spent millions on setting up inquiries like HET,

1:40:341:40:41

IHAT, Afghanistan, etc, etc,

1:40:411:40:45

and have done absolutely bloody nothing for us!

1:40:451:40:50

SHOUTS OF AGREEMENT

1:40:501:40:52

In his case, the anger is personal.

1:40:521:40:56

Well, today is wake-up day for them,

1:40:561:41:00

because the vast majority of the people

1:41:001:41:04

of this United Kingdom support us.

1:41:041:41:07

CHEERING

1:41:071:41:10

Dennis Hutchings isn't just an Army veteran.

1:41:101:41:13

The Crown has also accused the 75-year-old of being a criminal.

1:41:131:41:18

43 years ago, on this road outside Benburb,

1:41:231:41:27

Dennis Hutchings was part of an Army patrol

1:41:271:41:29

that shot John Pat Cunningham,

1:41:291:41:31

a 27-year-old man with a learning disability.

1:41:311:41:35

The Ministry of Defence apologised for the killing four years ago.

1:41:351:41:40

Later this month,

1:41:431:41:44

Dennis Hutchings is due to appear in a court in Northern Ireland

1:41:441:41:48

to answer the charge that his role in the shooting

1:41:481:41:50

amounted to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham.

1:41:501:41:54

He will be the first soldier to stand trial

1:41:541:41:57

on a Troubles-related charge for almost two decades.

1:41:571:42:00

And another prosecution is coming.

1:42:051:42:07

Two former members of the Parachute Regiment

1:42:071:42:10

are expected to be charged with murdering the man

1:42:101:42:13

in this famous photograph - official IRA gunman Joe McCann,

1:42:131:42:18

as he ran from a patrol in 1972.

1:42:181:42:22

Veterans thought their connection to the Troubles ended years ago,

1:42:231:42:27

but each new case, according to the Prosecution Service,

1:42:271:42:30

involves new evidence.

1:42:301:42:33

And hundreds more soldiers are due to be scrutinised

1:42:331:42:36

by the PSNI's legacy unit.

1:42:361:42:39

What about those people who would say,

1:42:411:42:42

you are not exempt from prosecution, you're not above the law either?

1:42:421:42:45

Nobody here would claim to be exempt.

1:42:451:42:48

If anybody here has done an offence,

1:42:481:42:51

we would be the first ones, first of all to report it,

1:42:511:42:54

and accept the punishment.

1:42:541:42:56

We would advocate if a soldier has done wrong,

1:42:561:42:58

they should be prosecuted.

1:42:581:43:01

What we are objecting to is that some people

1:43:011:43:03

do not get prosecuted and we do.

1:43:031:43:07

It is that equality of treatment that we are fighting for

1:43:071:43:10

and demonstrating for today.

1:43:101:43:12

At Downing Street, veterans handed in a letter,

1:43:161:43:19

demanding an end to the prosecutions.

1:43:191:43:22

They also want the prosecutor who ordered the first case,

1:43:221:43:26

Barra McGrory, sacked, because his former legal clients

1:43:261:43:30

include Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein.

1:43:301:43:34

Mr McGrory says his decisions are impartial and he has been defended

1:43:341:43:39

by Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

1:43:391:43:41

But Mr Brokenshire also said the system

1:43:431:43:45

for investigating historic cases in Northern Ireland

1:43:451:43:48

is not working and needs to be overhauled.

1:43:481:43:52

His boss also had something to say.

1:43:521:43:54

In the case of Northern Ireland,

1:43:541:43:56

90% of deaths were caused by terrorists,

1:43:561:43:59

and it's essential that the justice system reflects this.

1:43:591:44:02

It would be entirely wrong to treat terrorists more favourably

1:44:021:44:05

than soldiers or police officers.

1:44:051:44:07

Now the storm raised by the soldiers

1:44:071:44:09

has blown well beyond Westminster.

1:44:091:44:12

So far, the campaign by Northern Ireland veterans

1:44:131:44:16

has had the impact they wanted.

1:44:161:44:19

Cabinet Ministers have supported them,

1:44:191:44:21

the Prime Minister has even weighed in.

1:44:211:44:24

But there has been another unintended effect -

1:44:241:44:27

their campaign has become highly political in Northern Ireland.

1:44:271:44:32

In the aftermath of last week's election,

1:44:371:44:39

the prosecution of former soldiers looks like another issue

1:44:391:44:43

that complicates Northern Ireland's already tangled legacy debate.

1:44:431:44:48

A debate bedevilled by the equal treatment of victims,

1:44:531:44:57

the State's refusal to release information

1:44:571:45:00

that it deems necessary to national security,

1:45:001:45:03

and the funding of inquests,

1:45:031:45:05

which Sinn Fein says prompted it to break off its meeting

1:45:051:45:08

with the Secretary of State today.

1:45:081:45:10

Before the election, this mainly Unionist victims' group in Cookstown

1:45:101:45:15

heard warnings about the growing controversy.

1:45:151:45:18

There's going to be talks.

1:45:191:45:21

You know one of the bargaining chips that's going to be in it?

1:45:211:45:23

It's going to be victims' issues.

1:45:231:45:25

And when it comes down to it, it will be a trade off.

1:45:251:45:28

The very same night, Sinn Fein's new Northern leader

1:45:301:45:33

accused the British Government of trying to cover up the past.

1:45:331:45:37

They don't want the world to know what they did in our country.

1:45:391:45:43

They don't want the world to know about the death squads,

1:45:431:45:46

about shoot-to-kill,

1:45:461:45:47

about the torture and the full extent of collusion.

1:45:471:45:50

In Portadown, the leader of unionism told victims at a campaign rally

1:45:551:46:00

that she will not tolerate the pursuit of the security forces.

1:46:001:46:03

I would rather be out of power for a generation

1:46:051:46:09

than in power on the backs of those people

1:46:091:46:13

who gave everything to serve our community.

1:46:131:46:15

Those who defended us,

1:46:151:46:17

those who put themselves between us and the terrorists,

1:46:171:46:23

I am not going to allow those people to be sacrificed

1:46:231:46:29

on the altar of political expediency.

1:46:291:46:32

I have to say.

1:46:321:46:33

-Hear, hear.

-APPLAUSE

1:46:331:46:35

That's the general manager's house, where my mother was brought up.

1:46:451:46:49

For the first time in decades,

1:46:491:46:51

Andrew Sayers is back in Belleek, County Fermanagh,

1:46:511:46:54

his mother's hometown.

1:46:541:46:56

The earliest memory I've got is looking at a picture of my mother

1:46:571:47:01

standing at the back of this house in the garden.

1:47:011:47:04

Once, Andrew's family was Belleek Pottery.

1:47:041:47:09

They ran the factory for two generations.

1:47:091:47:11

-That looks like the pile of pots.

-Yeah.

1:47:131:47:15

They'd failed quality control and I was allowed to smash them,

1:47:151:47:19

with full permission, because they weren't going to be sold.

1:47:191:47:22

Like his ancestors, Andrew also came to work in Belleek.

1:47:251:47:30

But he flew in under the cover of darkness and hid in the hedgerows,

1:47:311:47:35

carrying out special operations as an Army officer.

1:47:351:47:40

We came up the valley,

1:47:401:47:41

put the helicopter down behind the high ground.

1:47:411:47:43

It was dark and the idea was to ensure

1:47:431:47:46

that nobody could see where we were disembarking the troops.

1:47:461:47:49

You spent your holidays here as a boy.

1:47:491:47:51

Your mum grew up in the house beside Belleek Pottery,

1:47:511:47:54

and yet you came back here under cover of darkness.

1:47:541:47:57

What was that like?

1:47:571:47:59

It felt horrible.

1:47:591:48:00

Just down the hill from my aunt's house.

1:48:001:48:03

And I knew that if I had climbed the hill from

1:48:031:48:06

100 yards down there,

1:48:061:48:08

I would have been welcomed and given a cup of tea.

1:48:081:48:10

-This was hostile territory...

-Yes.

1:48:101:48:12

Did you regard these people as the enemy?

1:48:121:48:14

Yes. I was very conscious that the children that I had played with

1:48:141:48:17

when I was eight, perhaps one or two of them

1:48:171:48:19

were now members of an IRA unit.

1:48:191:48:22

The law applies equally to us as it applies to the terrorists.

1:48:221:48:27

Andrew is one of the organisers of the veterans' campaign.

1:48:271:48:32

They say the new prosecutions,

1:48:321:48:34

the investigations and a series of inquests

1:48:341:48:36

into security force killings amount to a witch-hunt.

1:48:361:48:40

This former member of the Black Watch

1:48:421:48:44

believes soldiers suspected of any wrongdoing

1:48:441:48:47

have already been sufficiently investigated.

1:48:471:48:51

They were investigated thoroughly at the time.

1:48:511:48:55

A soldier is subjected to a series of investigations

1:48:551:48:58

if he fires his gun that is far more vigorous

1:48:581:49:01

than terrorists are subjected to.

1:49:011:49:05

We have to face not only the civil police,

1:49:051:49:08

but the Royal Military Police.

1:49:081:49:10

Any belief that the military police is best mates with the British Army,

1:49:101:49:15

they don't understand how it operates.

1:49:151:49:18

Killings by the military account for about one-third

1:49:221:49:25

of the Troubles cases now in front of the PSNI.

1:49:251:49:29

The British Government agrees with the veterans

1:49:291:49:32

that that is disproportionate,

1:49:321:49:34

because the Army was responsible for less than 10% of the deaths.

1:49:341:49:38

But there is a great deal of evidence

1:49:381:49:41

that the reason so many Army killings are being re-examined now

1:49:411:49:45

is that they were not properly investigated in the first place.

1:49:451:49:50

A man with a weapon. Then you may shoot him. A man with a weapon.

1:49:501:49:55

At the heart of this story is a fundamental disagreement

1:49:551:49:58

about how military killings in Northern Ireland were investigated.

1:49:581:50:03

Soldiers believe they were subjected to rigorous scrutiny

1:50:031:50:06

and investigations, and that when they were told

1:50:061:50:09

they were in the clear, that was it. Case closed.

1:50:091:50:12

But many families of people killed by the Army do not agree.

1:50:171:50:21

In Londonderry's Free Derry Museum,

1:50:261:50:28

British Army radio transmissions are played on a loop.

1:50:281:50:33

'60 fired at a bomber in William Street. Man hit.'

1:50:331:50:37

These are the actual sounds of Bloody Sunday,

1:50:371:50:40

when 13 people were shot dead by the Army in January 1972.

1:50:401:50:45

I'm meeting John Kelly,

1:50:501:50:52

whose brother was a teenager when he was killed.

1:50:521:50:55

My brother Michael was only 17,

1:50:551:50:57

and the youngest to die on Bloody Sunday.

1:50:571:50:59

And that's the little Babygro that was used to stem the flow

1:50:591:51:03

of blood when he was taken into the house after being shot.

1:51:031:51:05

That was the first thing the mother of the house grabbed,

1:51:051:51:07

was that Babygro.

1:51:071:51:09

So that actually, the blood on that Babygro

1:51:091:51:11

-is your brother's blood from that day?

-It's the blood of my brother.

1:51:111:51:14

It's extremely important to my family that we have something

1:51:141:51:17

belonging to Michael here.

1:51:171:51:18

Despite the high profile attached to Bloody Sunday,

1:51:221:51:25

the families of the dead said it took more than 35 years

1:51:251:51:28

for the killings to be properly investigated.

1:51:281:51:31

In 2010, after the biggest and most expensive inquiry

1:51:331:51:38

in British legal history,

1:51:381:51:40

the Government apologised for the killings,

1:51:401:51:43

saying they were unjustified, unjustifiable and wrong.

1:51:431:51:47

Do you think the soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday

1:51:501:51:53

were properly investigated at the time?

1:51:531:51:56

No.

1:51:561:51:57

So you're clear that at the time, your brother's death,

1:51:571:52:01

the deaths of the others that day were not investigated properly?

1:52:011:52:04

They were not investigated properly.

1:52:041:52:06

And for anyone else to say different,

1:52:061:52:09

they are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

1:52:091:52:12

There was never a murder investigation

1:52:121:52:14

by the police at the time.

1:52:141:52:16

The PSNI recently sent investigation files on Bloody Sunday

1:52:181:52:23

to the Prosecution Service, which means the soldier who killed

1:52:231:52:27

Michael Kelly could be the next veteran in the dock.

1:52:271:52:30

John doesn't speak for all the families,

1:52:321:52:34

but he would welcome that day in court.

1:52:341:52:37

Will prosecutions bring closure?

1:52:371:52:40

Prosecutions will certainly bring closure to me.

1:52:411:52:44

We have been...

1:52:441:52:46

It's 45 years since Bloody Sunday, and I was 23 on that day.

1:52:461:52:52

Some of these soldiers are the same age as me now.

1:52:521:52:55

And for me, I want to get on with the rest of my life,

1:52:551:52:57

whatever I have left.

1:52:571:52:59

So when I see prosecutions happen, I can smile

1:52:591:53:04

and say I've done a good job.

1:53:041:53:06

I was part of a process from the families,

1:53:061:53:10

and all the people who helped us over the years, that we have

1:53:101:53:12

tried to achieve truth and justice for our loved ones.

1:53:121:53:15

And through prosecutions, it will be the final

1:53:151:53:18

part of the equation.

1:53:181:53:19

'While a body was brought forward into a possible line of fire.'

1:53:191:53:23

As the most notorious action by the British Army

1:53:251:53:27

during the Troubles,

1:53:271:53:28

Bloody Sunday was always a focus of attention.

1:53:281:53:32

But hundreds of other killings were filed away

1:53:361:53:39

and largely ignored.

1:53:391:53:41

Evidence at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry revealed that

1:53:421:53:45

between 1970 and 1973, during the worst period

1:53:451:53:50

for killings, the RUC and Army had an informal agreement which meant

1:53:501:53:55

that Army shooters were only interviewed by military police.

1:53:551:54:00

That agreement was that basically

1:54:001:54:03

the Royal Military Police should have taken statements from soldiers

1:54:031:54:06

as to what happened during incidents where people were killed.

1:54:061:54:11

And the soldiers' statements would then be sent to the RUC.

1:54:111:54:14

By their own account, this took the form of a tea and sandwiches event,

1:54:141:54:18

where they simply sat with the soldier and said,

1:54:181:54:20

"Tell us what happened."

1:54:201:54:21

And there was no attempt to probe whether they had

1:54:211:54:25

broken the criminal law.

1:54:251:54:27

During the Troubles,

1:54:311:54:32

just over 20 military killings were brought to court,

1:54:321:54:36

a comparatively small proportion

1:54:361:54:38

of the 311 deaths caused by the Army.

1:54:381:54:42

Soldiers were acquitted in two-thirds of the cases.

1:54:431:54:47

In most cases in which troops were convicted of murder

1:54:471:54:50

or manslaughter, they were released after relatively short terms

1:54:501:54:54

in prison, and usually returned to the Army.

1:54:541:54:57

Those are the stark statistics of the last 40 years,

1:54:591:55:03

in terms of the actions of the British Army

1:55:031:55:05

on these streets since 1969.

1:55:051:55:07

That is not a witch-hunt.

1:55:071:55:09

Once again, there's a big difference

1:55:131:55:15

over what that small number of cases means.

1:55:151:55:18

Does it show favourable treatment for the Army, or is it evidence

1:55:181:55:22

that soldiers mostly operated within the rule of law,

1:55:221:55:25

even when they killed?

1:55:251:55:27

The Army's chief legal advisor in Iraq

1:55:271:55:30

was Lt Col Nicholas Mercer.

1:55:301:55:33

After he blew the whistle on the abuse of prisoners there,

1:55:331:55:36

a human rights group named him their lawyer of the year.

1:55:361:55:40

In the 1990s, he also instructed troops in Northern Ireland

1:55:401:55:44

on the rules of engagement,

1:55:441:55:46

specifying when they could or couldn't open fire.

1:55:461:55:50

Those rules were known as the yellow card.

1:55:501:55:53

The Lt Col is now a Church of England minister in Dorset.

1:55:531:55:58

He says there was sympathy in the Army for some of those

1:55:581:56:00

soldiers who wrongly crossed the line.

1:56:001:56:04

There was a view to one extent that this was a war,

1:56:041:56:07

and that these things happen,

1:56:071:56:09

and yet you're apply domestic law to what is a wartime situation.

1:56:091:56:14

From a legal perspective, of course, murder is murder.

1:56:141:56:17

You can take mitigating circumstances into account

1:56:171:56:20

and let's face it, there are mitigating circumstances,

1:56:201:56:22

these are young men with rifles who normally wouldn't have them

1:56:221:56:26

in highly charged operational situations,

1:56:261:56:29

which does make it different

1:56:291:56:31

from something like a gangland killing or a stabbing

1:56:311:56:34

or something of that nature.

1:56:341:56:36

But the yellow card rules made it clear that soldiers operating

1:56:361:56:40

in Northern Ireland could not behave as if they were in a war.

1:56:401:56:44

In international armed conflict, then...

1:56:441:56:48

you can shoot to kill because the other side

1:56:481:56:50

is a combatant.

1:56:501:56:52

In any other conflict, it would have to be

1:56:521:56:55

in self-defence of yourself or in self-defence of others.

1:56:551:57:00

So in Northern Ireland, self-defence?

1:57:001:57:03

Of yourself or others, yeah.

1:57:031:57:04

But such legal niceties had to be explained to soldiers on the ground.

1:57:041:57:09

Please, can you take your Guardsmen through the yellow card again,

1:57:091:57:12

and make sure its provisions are obeyed?

1:57:121:57:15

I expect them to take fairly vigorous action if we're under

1:57:151:57:18

attack, and I will back them up to the shagging hilt.

1:57:181:57:21

If they act within the spirit and the law of the yellow card,

1:57:211:57:25

I'll be there in court with them, my collar and tie,

1:57:251:57:29

making sure they get off.

1:57:291:57:30

I think, I think if you serve

1:57:301:57:31

in the Armed Forces you have some sympathy for the soldiers

1:57:311:57:34

on the ground.

1:57:341:57:36

I mean, I would go out on patrol with soldiers,

1:57:361:57:38

just to see what it was like first hand, and we did rural vehicle

1:57:381:57:43

checkpoints at night, with cars speeding up,

1:57:431:57:46

slowing down, young men with weapons - it's not easy.

1:57:461:57:50

Nicholas Mercer does believe there is a danger that individual

1:57:511:57:55

soldiers are left to face consequences not of their making.

1:57:551:57:59

Where you off to?

1:57:591:58:01

The fact that they were following orders

1:58:011:58:03

is not a defence in law -

1:58:031:58:06

the question is did they kill someone,

1:58:061:58:08

did they intend to do it, and do they have a lawful defence?

1:58:081:58:11

Having said that, all too often the State melt into the background,

1:58:111:58:16

leaving the servicemen stranded.

1:58:161:58:19

Alan Barry was a 19-year-old Grenadier Guardsman

1:58:231:58:26

when he first set foot in Northern Ireland.

1:58:261:58:29

Born in Dublin, he was raised near Birmingham.

1:58:291:58:32

I always wanted to be a soldier from a very early age.

1:58:331:58:36

That's how I ended up in the Army.

1:58:361:58:38

It's been more than 30 years

1:58:381:58:40

since he first found himself on this street in Strabane.

1:58:401:58:43

What was it like patrolling here, as a young 19-year-old?

1:58:451:58:49

Well, you were on edge all the time.

1:58:491:58:51

You didn't know what was coming or where it was coming from.

1:58:521:58:56

There was an air of tension, constantly.

1:58:561:59:00

Coming over this bridge for the first time in a Land Rover,

1:59:001:59:04

I'll always remember the peat fire smell,

1:59:041:59:08

because I actually didn't know what it was.

1:59:081:59:11

-Were you frightened?

-Yeah.

1:59:111:59:12

As young Guardsmen, yeah, we were frightened.

1:59:121:59:15

I was, I know that.

1:59:151:59:17

What kind of reception did you get back then in the '80s?

1:59:171:59:20

Hostile.

1:59:201:59:22

You could see the naked hatred in people's eyes towards us.

1:59:221:59:26

I remember once getting on a bus.

1:59:271:59:30

As I walked down I had my rifle up in the port position like this,

1:59:301:59:34

and I'm looking down each individual aisle.

1:59:341:59:37

The bus was packed with children of about 15, 16 years of age.

1:59:371:59:43

I was 19.

1:59:431:59:44

And the obscenities that were screamed at me,

1:59:441:59:46

you know the usual "Brit this, Brit that",

1:59:461:59:49

"Eff off back to where you're from," and all the usual stuff.

1:59:491:59:53

When I got off the bus, I took my flak jacket off,

1:59:531:59:55

and it was absolutely covered in phlegm and spit.

1:59:552:00:00

You say that a lot of people here saw you as the enemy.

2:00:002:00:04

What did you think your role here was at that stage?

2:00:042:00:08

My view, and the view of many of my fellow comrades,

2:00:092:00:13

was that we were here to stand between two warring factions.

2:00:132:00:18

We were not here to oppress anyone.

2:00:182:00:20

We were here to stop people being murdered,

2:00:202:00:24

to stop people being killed, and that was our job.

2:00:242:00:28

Alan Barry was also one of the London march organisers.

2:00:292:00:32

He's incensed that Dennis Hutchings

2:00:342:00:36

and other soldiers are being brought to trial.

2:00:362:00:39

The State, he says, has double standards.

2:00:392:00:42

The main reason for this event today

2:00:432:00:47

was to send a clear message out to our politicians and also

2:00:472:00:52

to the people both here in the United Kingdom and the people

2:00:522:00:57

in Northern Ireland,

2:00:572:00:58

of the injustice of what's currently happening.

2:00:582:01:01

He says that's mainly because of the efforts Tony Blair's government

2:01:022:01:06

put into dealing with IRA fugitives.

2:01:062:01:08

Back in 2001, the Government agreed to an amnesty

2:01:102:01:14

in exchange for decommissioning.

2:01:142:01:16

But the Ministry of Defence didn't want the plan

2:01:172:01:20

to include soldiers,

2:01:202:01:22

because that would equate them with terrorists.

2:01:222:01:24

That changed four years later,

2:01:262:01:29

when the then Secretary of State Peter Hain

2:01:292:01:31

brought legislation to Parliament

2:01:312:01:33

that would grant immunity from prosecution

2:01:332:01:36

for certain Troubles-related crimes.

2:01:362:01:39

This time, soldiers were included in the Government's plans.

2:01:392:01:43

Sinn Fein were only concerned with their side,

2:01:462:01:48

but you couldn't legislate, I would never

2:01:482:01:50

have been prepared to legislate in a way that gave a special

2:01:502:01:54

status to former IRA militia men on the one hand,

2:01:542:02:00

but not to soldiers on the other.

2:02:002:02:01

How could any Secretary of State do that?

2:02:012:02:03

How could any responsible individual do that?

2:02:032:02:07

With soldiers coming in, Sinn Fein wanted out.

2:02:072:02:11

Just as the MoD had objected to being included with the IRA,

2:02:112:02:16

Sinn Fein now objected to the inclusion of soldiers.

2:02:162:02:19

The Government dropped the legislation.

2:02:192:02:22

That still left the problem of republican fugitives,

2:02:222:02:25

known as on-the-runs.

2:02:252:02:28

So quietly, the Government began issuing

2:02:282:02:30

what are now known as letters of comfort.

2:02:302:02:33

These letters were supposed to be a limited statement of fact,

2:02:342:02:37

namely that individual republicans were not wanted by the police.

2:02:372:02:42

But that scheme backfired spectacularly.

2:02:422:02:46

Three years ago, Donegal man John Downey was found not guilty

2:02:462:02:50

of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing.

2:02:502:02:53

IRA terrorists have carried out

2:02:532:02:55

two lethal bomb attacks in London.

2:02:552:02:58

The attack killed four members of the Household Cavalry,

2:02:582:03:01

and seven of their horses.

2:03:012:03:03

Seven Army musicians were killed by a bomb

2:03:042:03:07

at Regent's Park the same day.

2:03:072:03:09

Downey had been wanted by police, because fingerprint evidence

2:03:112:03:15

was suspected of linking him to the Hyde Park attack.

2:03:152:03:19

He pleaded not guilty, and was acquitted because

2:03:192:03:22

he received a letter from the Government

2:03:222:03:25

saying he was not wanted for any offences.

2:03:252:03:28

As a former member of the Household Division,

2:03:282:03:30

it is something I feel quite strongly about.

2:03:302:03:33

Troopers of the Blues and Royals mounting public duty,

2:03:332:03:36

who were not carrying weapons, who were mounting public duty

2:03:362:03:39

on their horses were blown to smithereens.

2:03:392:03:42

John Downey walked into court with a letter of comfort,

2:03:432:03:47

and the case collapsed.

2:03:472:03:48

What was your reaction and the reaction

2:03:482:03:51

of your colleagues when you found out about the letters of comfort?

2:03:512:03:55

If the cost of peace is letters of comfort,

2:03:552:03:59

I can only speak for myself,

2:03:592:04:01

that is something that I can live with.

2:04:012:04:03

What I cannot live with, is letters of comfort

2:04:032:04:06

for terrorists and gangsters and veterans being pursued.

2:04:062:04:10

That's wrong. It's a completely one-sided situation.

2:04:102:04:14

And it's not morally, fundamentally right.

2:04:142:04:17

Do you bear any responsibility

2:04:172:04:18

for where we are today, given that the militaries

2:04:182:04:22

reserve most of their ire for the Blair Government

2:04:222:04:25

for the letters of comfort?

2:04:252:04:27

It's very, very hard to overstate the depth of feeling that's

2:04:272:04:31

still there within the military over those letters of comfort.

2:04:312:04:35

They see it as a sign, they see it as pure treachery.

2:04:352:04:38

I completely reject any accusation and resent, deeply resent

2:04:382:04:43

any accusation of treachery.

2:04:432:04:45

I have always been consistent and clear

2:04:452:04:48

that it has to apply to everybody.

2:04:482:04:49

It has to apply to IRA gunman and bomber

2:04:492:04:53

equally as to British soldiers.

2:04:532:04:55

A judge blamed the Downey case on a catastrophic

2:04:572:05:00

mistake by the PSNI.

2:05:002:05:02

However, a second murder suspect was found to have received a letter,

2:05:032:05:08

and veterans believe that shows republicans were protected.

2:05:082:05:12

But the office of Barra McGrory, the Director of Public Prosecutions,

2:05:132:05:18

said it is has been made clear that there is no amnesty system in place

2:05:182:05:22

for any type of individual.

2:05:222:05:24

When he was Sinn Fein's lawyer,

2:05:372:05:39

Mr McGrory was involved in identifying who might receive

2:05:392:05:42

the letters, although he has said he had, "no hand,

2:05:422:05:45

"act or part in the devising of the scheme."

2:05:452:05:48

Since he became DPP, he has referred

2:05:502:05:53

nine Troubles cases to the PSNI for further investigation,

2:05:532:05:58

four related to Army killings.

2:05:582:06:00

But it's the perceived connection between his past and present roles

2:06:022:06:06

that has made him an object of attack from the veterans.

2:06:062:06:10

The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland

2:06:122:06:17

cannot be considered impartial.

2:06:172:06:20

Sack the DPP, and save our troops.

2:06:202:06:23

At this election campaign meeting in Cookstown for mainly

2:06:262:06:29

Unionist victims' groups, the prosecutions were

2:06:292:06:32

high on the agenda.

2:06:322:06:33

Within this room and further afield, there are a lot of retired members

2:06:352:06:39

of the security forces worried for their future.

2:06:392:06:42

They're coming to me saying, we cannot sleep at night.

2:06:422:06:44

We are being revisited by,

2:06:442:06:48

re-traumatised by, incidents in the past.

2:06:482:06:51

And it's not like any of these soldiers or police went out

2:06:512:06:54

with death in their minds.

2:06:542:06:56

They went out to do a job of work and were faced with an incident

2:06:562:07:00

which they had to react to very, very quickly.

2:07:002:07:03

They did not set out with murder in their heart.

2:07:032:07:06

Politicians were invited to sign a pledge opposing any Troubles

2:07:062:07:10

amnesty but also seeking some legal protection for the security forces.

2:07:102:07:15

Audience members also had the Director of Public Prosecutions

2:07:152:07:19

on their mind.

2:07:192:07:21

We'll just move on to the next question.

2:07:212:07:23

It's from Trevor. A very simple question. Do you believe

2:07:232:07:26

Barry McGrory is impartial?

2:07:262:07:28

LAUGHTER

2:07:282:07:31

Trevor, I'm very conscious I don't have parliamentary privilege here.

2:07:352:07:39

That's the first thing to say.

2:07:392:07:41

How should I put this?

2:07:432:07:44

There is very deep concern among many within the community

2:07:442:07:48

about the referrals that are being made by the

2:07:482:07:52

Director of Public Prosecutions.

2:07:522:07:56

I think, you know, people will judge for themselves

2:07:562:08:00

the number of cases that have been, I suppose, referred by

2:08:002:08:05

the Director of Public Prosecutions.

2:08:052:08:07

And I think, Trevor, you'll appreciate, the limitations

2:08:072:08:10

and what we can say on that.

2:08:102:08:12

But that night the DUP representative defended

2:08:122:08:16

Barra McGrory's integrity.

2:08:162:08:18

I'll echo, I think, Tom's cautiousness

2:08:182:08:22

in the sense of there isn't parliamentary privilege and

2:08:222:08:24

obviously he has come out and very strongly denied allegations.

2:08:242:08:28

If there is any skewing or any, differential in treatment then

2:08:292:08:34

that must be identified and he will be answerable

2:08:342:08:37

to that and for that.

2:08:372:08:39

Sorry. Maybe I've made a mistake here.

2:08:402:08:43

Was he not involved in the make-up of the "on the run" letters

2:08:432:08:48

before he took on that new position?

2:08:482:08:50

What the director has said very clearly

2:08:502:08:52

is that he has been very, very open and said that he

2:08:522:08:55

has not been biased.

2:08:552:08:56

He has looked at what has come before him, and in his professional

2:08:562:08:59

integrity he has referred on where he has to do that

2:08:592:09:01

and he does have legal obligations there.

2:09:012:09:03

The DPP's office says the Army cases are a fraction of the legacy

2:09:032:09:08

prosecutions he's brought, the majority involving republicans.

2:09:082:09:13

And Mr McGrory has said he represented many people,

2:09:142:09:17

including police and soldiers.

2:09:172:09:21

He told BBC Newsline that as DPP he applies the law evenly

2:09:212:09:25

and his former clients have no bearing on his decisions.

2:09:252:09:29

And he resents the criticism.

2:09:292:09:32

I can't speak for the motivation of those who say

2:09:322:09:35

such things but some of them ought to know better.

2:09:352:09:38

If they're not trying to influence me, then

2:09:382:09:41

they are certainly being personally insulting and they are questioning

2:09:412:09:47

my integrity.

2:09:472:09:48

Who I have represented in the past really has

2:09:482:09:50

got nothing to do with it.

2:09:502:09:52

I apply the rule of law as it is and decisions are taken

2:09:522:09:57

on the evidence and in the public interest.

2:09:572:10:01

Last month, when Irish Foreign Minister

2:10:012:10:03

Charlie Flanagan delivered the annual Pat Finucane lecture,

2:10:032:10:07

Mr McGrory was on hand to hear him defend the decision

2:10:072:10:11

to prosecute soldiers.

2:10:112:10:13

Regardless of who someone was and regardless

2:10:132:10:16

of what they were doing there is a requirement

2:10:162:10:19

to effectively and meticulously investigate the matter

2:10:192:10:22

of their death.

2:10:222:10:24

And thereafter, if the threshold of proof is met, a prosecution must

2:10:242:10:29

actively and vigorously be pursued.

2:10:292:10:33

The eldest son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane said

2:10:332:10:37

the criticism of Mr McGrory is wholly unjustified.

2:10:372:10:42

I think the conflation of a lawyer

2:10:422:10:46

with the perceived sympathies or beliefs of their client

2:10:462:10:54

is probably one of the most dangerous things one can do

2:10:542:10:58

in a democratic society. I do not think that this deliberate

2:10:582:11:03

association of Mr McGrory with persons he may have represented

2:11:032:11:08

in a previous capacity is in any way helpful or justified

2:11:082:11:12

and I think it should stop.

2:11:122:11:14

New negotiations began at Stormont yesterday,

2:11:172:11:20

with legacy issues near the top of the agenda.

2:11:202:11:23

Both Sinn Fein and the DUP have conflicting demands about the past

2:11:242:11:29

that can only be answered by the British Government.

2:11:292:11:32

People who have served the State who have been

2:11:332:11:37

in the armed forces I think

2:11:372:11:39

are entitled to a level of legal protection.

2:11:392:11:42

What we're talking about is not an amnesty,

2:11:422:11:44

but a statute of limitations which would mean you set a time period

2:11:442:11:50

after which it's no longer possible to pursue those cases.

2:11:502:11:54

There's never been a statute of limitation for murder.

2:11:542:11:56

If there is evidence that someone has committed a murder then

2:11:562:11:59

of course that person is liable to prosecution.

2:11:592:12:02

What we're talking about here are historic investigations

2:12:022:12:05

and the statute of limitations would relate

2:12:052:12:07

to reopening investigations.

2:12:072:12:10

The question is, is everyone equal under the law?

2:12:102:12:13

They're arguing for a statute of limitations for State forces

2:12:132:12:17

so clearly they don't believe in equality under the law.

2:12:172:12:20

So on the one hand they're saying we want everyone equal under the law

2:12:202:12:25

and on the other hand saying, except if they're State forces.

2:12:252:12:29

Then they should be more equal than others.

2:12:292:12:31

It's practical immunity over the last 40 years

2:12:312:12:34

and now they're trying to legalise it.

2:12:342:12:37

Each individual, whether they are State forces

2:12:372:12:38

or not State forces, whether they were in the

2:12:382:12:41

British Army, or used to be in the IRA, or whether in a loyalist

2:12:412:12:44

organisation, unionist paramilitary, whatever they happen to be

2:12:442:12:47

if you want to deal with it, then deal with it on an equal basis.

2:12:472:12:50

The problem for all politicians is that an end to prosecutions,

2:12:502:12:54

whether for one side or all sides, requires victims to relinquish

2:12:542:12:59

any hope of seeing justice.

2:12:592:13:01

What has to happen here, and this is a very hard thing for families

2:13:032:13:08

and victims to accept, is that if you do not want your elderly

2:13:082:13:16

relative former soldier prosecuted then you've got to accept

2:13:162:13:21

that the elderly former republican who did something totally wrong

2:13:212:13:27

and illegal and murderous has got to be exempt from being pursued

2:13:272:13:35

and prosecuted as well.

2:13:352:13:37

What would you say to those people

2:13:372:13:38

who've said it's been 45 years, it's time to draw a line in the sand?

2:13:382:13:43

For Northern Ireland's future, prosperity and well being,

2:13:432:13:46

let it go.

2:13:462:13:47

I have heard that many times.

2:13:472:13:49

Heard it many times,

2:13:492:13:51

and to me it's an insult.

2:13:512:13:53

There are people out there crying out for justice for the loss

2:13:532:13:57

of their loved ones. It will never, ever go away.

2:13:572:14:00

Don't get me wrong, this is not about vengeance,

2:14:022:14:05

this is about justice.

2:14:052:14:07

Others say the only way forward is to choose between prosecutions

2:14:072:14:11

of all sides or none.

2:14:112:14:14

I think the very difficult consideration we all have to make,

2:14:142:14:20

do we go all out one way or all out the other?

2:14:202:14:23

Do we prosecute, or do we amnesty?

2:14:232:14:27

I understand and realise completely the difficulty that that decision

2:14:272:14:31

will make for some people, but I'm afraid it's a Rubicon that

2:14:312:14:36

in my view simply has to be crossed.

2:14:362:14:38

For now, the veterans are planning more, and they say bigger,

2:14:422:14:45

marches to put pressure on the Government.

2:14:452:14:48

Our argument and our beef is with the government

2:14:492:14:52

and the politicians.

2:14:522:14:54

It is not with the republican community.

2:14:542:14:57

I have heard the republican

2:14:572:14:59

side of Sinn Fein saying we have to move on, we need closure.

2:14:592:15:03

Closure applies to both sides and it strikes me and it strikes fellow

2:15:032:15:07

veterans that republican Sinn Fein, IRA effectively want closure

2:15:072:15:13

for themselves, but they don't want closure for us.

2:15:132:15:16

The past, like old soldiers, will not fade away.

2:15:172:15:22

We cannot help but continue to remember it.

2:15:222:15:25

The question is can we, or can we not agree on a way to go forward

2:15:252:15:30

into the future together?

2:15:302:15:32

With British Army veterans set to be tried for Troubles killings, Mandy McAuley meets their comrades campaigning to stop the cases and assesses how their fight will feature in Stormont's new negotiations.


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