Boris Johnson’s pledge on forces “amnesty” should come as no surprise

Posted By: July 13, 2019

Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson has promised to deal with the prosecution of former soldiers

 Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, July 13, 2019

IT is widely recognized that Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson likes to be all things to all people.

He says things he doesn’t mean and makes promises he has no intention of keeping.

But that doesn’t mean we should totally dismiss his pledge on prosecutions against former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

When Johnson announced his intention to run for the top job one of his first backers and chief whip was former defense minister Gavin Williamson.

Sacked by Theresa May amid a row over leaks, which he strongly denied responsibility for, he is one of the main advocates for a statute of limitations for ex-soldiers – saying that if it meant a wider amnesty for all actors in the conflict then “so be it.”

Johnson has reportedly said he would appoint a veterans minister if he is chosen to lead the Conservative Party, a job Williamson no doubt has his eye on.

One of Johnson’s other main supporters is former army officer Johnny Mercer who withdrew his support for Theresa May and the government over historical prosecutions.

In a letter to the PM earlier this year he said the investigations were “personally offensive,” adding: “Many are my friends, and I am from their tribe.”

To gain the support of both of these MPs, it seems obvious that the ever-ambitious Boris dangled a few carrots in front of their eyes in the shape of promises to end future investigations.

It is a policy popular with Conservative MPs and the party’s membership, who have a very one-dimensional view of our conflict and the legacy issue, and there have also been high-profile campaigns by several newspapers on the issue.

However, can he deliver such a controversial policy given the warnings from legal experts and the fact that it does not have the same support from his “Confidence and Supply” partners in the DUP?

An amnesty to include former IRA members unpopular with the Unionist party’s voter base.

Boris Johnson told The Sun newspaper: “We must protect people against unfair prosecutions. And I will.”

The use of the word ‘unfair’ in that sentence may just provide the fudge needed if he finds himself Prime Minister Johnson and unable to deliver another of his many promises.