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Sinn Féin criticise British Army chief's remarks on legacy cases as 'extremely insulting and hurtful'

Sir Nick Carter said British soldiers serving in the north during the Troubles had done a "remarkable job" and said "vextatious claims" will not happen on my watch
John Monaghan

SINN Féin has described comments by the head of Britain's armed forces that he will stamp out bogus claims against Troubles veterans as "extremely insulting and hurtful".

Sir Nick Carter said that former British soldiers based in the north had done a "remarkable job" saying some were being "chased by people making vexatious claims" of wrongdoing.

He said: "That will not happen on my watch. Absolutely not."

"It is right and proper that if our soldiers have done something wrong then they should clearly be investigated. But only if they have done something wrong."

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Linda Dillon urged the British Army chief to meet with some of the families who had made claims about the actions of soldiers.

"These comments are extremely insulting and will provide further hurt to families and victims of the conflict, some of whom have waited over 40 years for closure," she said.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry also questioned the British army chief's remarks saying they "appear dangerous, irresponsible comments at odds with the rule of law".

"That is the job of the criminal justice system, and it is incumbent on the Army and the Ministry of Defence to fully co-operate with any investigations," he said.

"There is not a witchhunt underway against former members of armed forces. Indeed, those in positions in authority need to tackle this propaganda rather than feeding it."

Unionists however welcomed the comments, with UUP MLA Doug Beattie, a former British soldier, saying the current position in Northern Ireland is "one of imbalance".

"Terrorists have been able to avail of early release from prison, royal prerogatives of mercy or royal pardons, and over 200 'letters of comfort' by the Blair government."

DUP Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said young people considering a career in the British Army "need to know that the state will protect them" in the case of bogus claims.

He accused Sinn Féin of deflection in relation to IRA killings, saying that "they won't give any information about those crimes".

Sir Nick's predecessor, Sir Stuart Peach, said he was "deeply uncomfortable" at the prospect of veterans facing investigation for actions which occurred during the Troubles.

A consultation document issued by Secretary of State Karen Bradley on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles does not include provision for a statute of limitations, to the anger of many Conservative MPs.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mrs Bradley said: "Some have called for a statute of limitations for veterans, but we believe that is not legally possible without extending it to the terrorists - something this government could not support."

Meanwhile, the daughter of a man wounded on Bloody Sunday has called for the prosecution of a soldier accused of firing the shot which caused the injuries.

Pius McCarron suffered a brain haemorrhage a year after being struck by masonry sent flying by shots fired as he and another protester, Patrick McDaid, attempted to run away from the Rossville Flats car park.

A former soldier, who is 76 and described as 'Sergeant O', was interviewed under caution for attempted murder more than two years ago about events on Bloody Sunday.

He has also spoken out and urged Sir Nick Carter to "press the government to act...it can't go on like this".

Mr McCarron's daughter, Maureen however said she believes her father died because of the soldier's actions.

"I think he should be prosecuted. It was his decision to pull that trigger, to fire that bullet, and he should face the consequences," she said.

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