Legal letters to Troubles soldiers “worrying,” says ex-Army chief

Posted By: August 29, 2017

 Adrian Rutherford. Belfast Telegraph, Monday, August 28,  2017

The former head of the Army has slammed the “outrageous” issuing of legal letters to thousands of former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

Retired General Sir Richard Dannatt is the latest to intervene in the row over what some have branded a “witch-hunt”.

Troops based here during the Troubles have received letters asking for statements about fatal shootings ahead of new inquests.

Lord Dannatt said: “There should be no obligation on soldiers to co-operate because they have previously given evidence on the assurance of no further action being taken when this has proved a false promise.

“I think this is an extremely unwelcome, worrying move. I served in Belfast in 1971 and had 25 to 35-year-old soldiers in my platoon who would now be in their 70s and 80s. Asking them to recall shootings from back then is outrageous.

“Veterans will wonder what is behind this and when this will end. After what British troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have been put through following baseless claims against them of abuse, this is another episode we could well do without. I’m surprised the MoD [Ministry of Defence] is going along with it.”

The Mail on Sunday obtained an email from the MoD to regimental associations.

It says: “The circumstances surrounding the deaths of those killed during the Troubles have been reviewed, sometimes several times. This has resulted in a decision by the Northern Ireland Attorney General to hold new inquests. The MoD has an obligation to support these inquests.

“As part of this, letters are being sent by the Defence Inquest Unit to those who might have been witnesses.”

Sinn Fein victims spokesperson Linda Dillon said: “It is not a witch-hunt. It is due process and any attempt to absolve former British soldiers involved in the murder of Irish citizens is entirely unacceptable.”