Tory MPs line up to blast Theresa May over treatment of Troubles veterans
Theresa May has been accused of throwing Northern Ireland veterans “to the wolves” as Tory MPs tore into the Government’s treatment of soldiers who served in the Troubles.
The Prime Minister faced fury from her own backbenchers in Prime Minister’s Questions over the work of the Historical Investigations Unit, which was set up to probe unsolved killings stemming from the decades-long conflict in Ulster.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who served tours of Northern Ireland as a member of the Scots Guards, said the Government risked abandoning his former colleagues.
Raising the cause of a friend "who was tortured, murdered and his body has never been found", the Conservative Brexiteer said: "None of those who served have called for an amnesty. What they have called for is fairness and justice.
“Many, many old veterans now are finding, having been cleared decades ago, that the PSNI [Police Service of has now proceeding against them with no new evidence.
He asked the PM: "How is it that I can say to my old colleagues that his government has not abandoned them?"
Fellow Conservative backbencher Marc Francois also joined the attack, and accused the Prime Minister of “pandering” to the IRA as he read out a letter from veteran David Griffin.
He said the former Royal Marine, who killed an IRA gunman who was about to assassinate one of his comrades in 1972, was now being investigated 47 years on from the incident.
Mr Francois said: “He is watching these proceedings now, Prime Minister, from his home at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.
“He asked me to ask you this: 'I served my Queen and country in uniform for over 20 years and I was commended for my service in Northern Ireland. Acting under the lawful orders of my officer commanding, I killed a terrorist who was about to murder one of my comrades and yet I am being investigated as if I were a criminal.
'The IRA have letters of comfort. We don't. Why, Prime Minister, are you pandering to Sinn Fein/IRA while throwing veterans like me to the wolves?'
“What is your answer Prime Minister to this Chelsea pensioner and all the veterans he represents?”
'BRAVERY AND SACRIFICE'
Meanwhile Johnny Mercer, who over the weekend accused the Prime Minister of betraying Troubles veterans amid reports she had intervened to stop ministers drawing up a new law to shield them from prosecutions, also weighed in.
The Plymouth Moorview MP said: “I think the Prime Minister and this House is beginning to understand the level of fury of veterans in this country when it comes to their treatment by this place over the years.
“But the most disturbing part of last weekend is this insinuation of equivocation between those who got up in the morning to go and murder women and children and civilians and those who donned a uniform to go and protect the crown."
Responding to the volley of attacks - which comes as the embattled Prime Minister faces mounting tory anger over her Brexit dear - Mrs May heaped praise on the armed forces.
But she insisted providing an amnesty for Troubles veterans would also result in an "amnesty" for terrorists.
She said: “There is no question of equating that bravery and that sacrifice with the acts of terrorists.
“But what I would also say to my honourable friend is that what he is, I think, the implication of his question, urging me to do is to put into place a system which would equate terrorists with members of the armed forces.”
Amid cries of protest from the Tory benches, she added: “Any statute of limitations, any amnesty that is put into place would as a matter of law have to apply across the board. I do not want to see, and I will not see, an amnesty for the terrorists."
Setting up the Historical Investigations Unit was a key part of the 2014 Stormont House agreement between the British and Irish governments, with the team looking into allegations of misconduct by service personnel as well as unsolved criminal cases.
Last year the Police Service of Northern Ireland said there were still more than 1,000 unexplained deaths stemming from the Troubles.