By Richard Kemp and Henry Robinson
A version of this article appeared in The Daily Express on 1 October 2018
A British soldier and an Official IRA member, we were on opposite sides during the Northern Ireland conflict. Later, both of us were involved in the process that led to peace and greater prosperity across the province. Today we are gravely concerned about the turn of events that threatens to see many elderly British veterans hauled into court, charged with murder for actions they were involved with while serving decades ago. The aim is to criminalise them individually and collectively.
This is being driven by Sinn Fein, who want to re-write history, with the IRA cast as heroic and honourable soldiers in a just war and the UK armed forces and police as the criminal oppressors. To adapt Clausewitz’s dictum, it is a continuation of war by other means.
This should have come as no surprise: it has been the Republicans’ agenda all along. Neither of us holds a brief for Sinn Fein. But we don’t blame them for this situation — they are merely exploiting an opportunity that has been handed to them on a plate. Culpability lies entirely with the British government for the spectacle of former soldiers in their declining years being arrested in their homes, taken in for police questioning, subjected to months of investigation and dragged into the dock.
Every one of these soldiers was exonerated by proper legal process at the time of the events concerned. Retired soldiers are easy pickings, but the real prize for Sinn Féin is the Royal Ulster Constabulary and particularly the Special Branch which above all was responsible for the intelligence penetration that defeated the IRA and forced Sinn Fein to the table.
Meanwhile the peace process secured early release for Republican prisoners and letters of comfort for terrorists ‘on-the-run’. This amounts to amnesty and has effectively de-criminalised them.
During the peace negotiations, the possibility of an equivalent amnesty for British soldiers and police accused of wrongdoing during the Troubles was discussed but roundly rejected by their leaders who refused to allow their own to be equated to the terrorists they spent decades combating. Yet ministers took no alternative action to safeguard the men who fought under government orders, despite the fact that these vexatious prosecutions were foreseen by many, including both of us. (more…)