Ministry of Defence announces funding for Northern Ireland veterans

Ministry of Defence announces legal funding for Northern Ireland veterans ahead of expected charges in letter sent out 18 minutes before Brexit vote

  • The letter was signed by secretary of state for defence Gavin Williamson
  • It states it would be inappropriate to comment on decisions of legal authorities 
  • In terms of legal support it states that veterans are all represented entirely at the department’s expense 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson admitted last week that plans to introduce a ten-year limit on soldier prosecutions would come into effect in time for the Bloody Sunday soldiers

The Ministry of Defence has announced legal funding for Northern Ireland veterans ahead of expected charges in a letter sent out just 18 minutes before the Brexit vote.

At 6.42pm a letter entitled ‘Departmental support to Veterans in legacy cases’ was sent out by minister of defence people and veterans, Tobias Ellwood, minister of state for the armed forces, Mark Lancaster and secretary of state for defence Gavin Williamson. 

The letter states that while the department understands that the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service will announce on Thursday whether there will be criminal charges in relation to Bloody Sunday, that it would be inappropriate to speculate on the decisions of independent legal authorities.

Army veterans will find out on Thursday whether they face charges over the infamous shootings, in which 13 civilians died at the hands of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment on the streets of Londonderry in 1972. 

The letter goes on to detail the ‘support arrangement in place for veterans who are subject to investigations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’. 

The letter (pictured above) was sent out 19 minutes before the meaningful Brexit vote

  • Russia carries out first navy launch tests of its…

    ‘We don’t want to hear your sad life story, you pathetic,…

  • How former RAF and British Airways pilot nicknamed ‘The…

Share this article

Tobias Ellwood (pictured above) was one of the signatories on the letter which was sent out earlier this evening

BuzzFeed reporter Alex Wickham posted a picture of the letter on Twitter.

In terms of legal support it states that veterans are all represented entirely at the Ministry of Defence’s expense.

It goes on to say that the department is mindful of the need to ‘safeguard taxpayers’ interests’, but that decision on the selection of independent legal representatives are not driven by considerations of cost but of offering veterans the best possible representations.

It states: ‘The Ministry of Defence is also committed to providing high quality welfare and pastoral support to all those veterans affected by historic investigations’.

It adds: ‘The Ministry of Defence has ensured that all veterans under investigation in respect of Bloody Sunday are aware of support available, either their legal representatives or directly.

British troops in Northern Ireland during the Troubles which began in the late 1960s and lasted until 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement

Lying on the ground is a man receiving attention, during the shooting incident in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which became known as Bloody Sunday on January 30, 1972

‘While these arrangement focus on the support available to veterans who are potential suspects within criminal investigations, broadly equivalent arrangements apply to those who may be required to participate within other legacy legal processes, such as inquests (including the current Ballymurphy inquests in Belfast) and public inquiries.

‘We have been in correspondence or conversation with some of you already on the Ministry of Defence’s, and indeed the government’s general approach to legacy issues affecting the defence community.’

The letter then adds that the department is ‘unwaveringly committed’ to finding ways to give appropriate legal protection to serving and former members of the Armed Forces in situations where they currently face repeated investigations and potential prosecution following events that happened many years ago. 

Just yesterday and army chief had warned that soldiers will ‘think twice’ about obeying orders in future if veterans involved in Bloody Sunday are charged this week.

Lord Ramsbotham – who was military assistant to the chief of the general staff at the time of the shootings – said that prosecuting any of the 17 former soldiers under investigation would set a dangerous precedent.

Former military chief Lord Ramsbotham who has said that prosecuting British soldiers over the deaths of civilians on Bloody Sunday would set a dangerous precedent for the Army’s future operations around the world

Soldiers had claimed they retaliated after coming under gunfire. However in 2010, a £200million report compiled by Lord Saville concluded that the civilians killed in one of the darkest periods of the Troubles were innocent.

The prospect of charges against men now in their 60s and 70s, almost 50 years on, has caused ‘profound concern’ within the Army, according to crossbench peer Lord Ramsbotham.

‘The position of a commander giving an order to somebody to open fire, if it’s likely to end up in court, the soldier receiving the order and the person giving the order will think twice about it in the future,’ he said. ‘That could have very serious implications if we’re defending this country. I am thinking in terms of the command and control of the Army as a whole.’ 




Source: Read Full Article