Scottish MP refuses to apologise for ‘insensitive' remarks on IRA soldier murders

SNP MSP John Mason has refused to apologise for remarks made in relation to the IRA murder of three Scottish soldiers outside Belfast in 1971 
Gareth McKeown

A MEMBER of the Scottish parliament has refused to apologise for online remarks where he appears to condone the IRA murder of three off duty soldiers during the Troubles.

SNP Glasgow Shettleston representative John Mason sparked anger with remarks about the IRA murder of three Scottish soldiers outside Belfast in 1971.

Brothers John McCaig (17) and Joseph McCaig (18), along with Dougald McCaughey (23) of the Royal Highland Fusiliers - were murdered by the IRA on a remote road at Whitebrae on March 10, 1971 after being lured to their deaths from a city centre bar.

They were among the first soldiers to be killed during the Troubles and the first to be killed off-duty.

The soldiers are commemorated by a memorial at the site of their murder and another at Ballysillan Avenue in north Belfast.

In a Twitter exchange Mr Mason was asked to support a campaign to bring those responsible for the murder to justice.

In response the MSP said he was “not taking sides between Irish and British” before later responding: “You say Irish murderers. Others say Irish freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad”.

He later wrote in another response: "I'm not taking sides on Irish issues".

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland described the comments as "grossly offensive" on Wednesday night.

"People will rightly ask what exactly the SNP’s position on Irish republican terrorism actually is. Will either Mr Mason or his party clarify what he believes three off-duty soldiers in civilian clothes were 'doing bad' when they were lured from a city-centre bar to be murdered. Will either Mr Mason or his party clarify whether the SNP does 'take a side' when it comes to terrorism," he said.

Ulster Unionist North Belfast representative Robert Foster called on Mr Mason to apologise for the "incredibly offensive" and "insensitive" remarks.

"For an elected SNP representative to imply that they were somehow in the wrong, or that those responsible for their deaths were not murderers is simply incredible. John Mason needs to acquaint himself with the full horror of the murder of these young men and apologise for his comments," he said.

When asked by the Irish News to clarify his position on the remarks Mr Mason did not respond.

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