Northern Ireland news

Theresa May says system for probing Troubles killings 'isn't working for anyone'

Theresa May said the current system for dealing with the past was not working

THERESA May has said the system for investigating Troubles killings needs to change.

The British prime minister, who was speaking at Westminster yesterday, said the current system for dealing with the past was not working.

A public consultation process on the legacy of the Troubles was launched in May last year but earlier this week DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was confident that the British government would make "significant changes" to its draft bill.

During Prime Minister's Questions, the Tory leader was challenged by her party colleague Johnny Mercer over the case of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings, who is being prosecuted for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in 1974.

The 27-year-old, who had learning difficulties, was shot dead as he ran away from a British army patrol near Benburb, Co Tyrone.

Mr Mercer said he had received a call from the 77-year-old accused earlier this week.

"He has just been charged with attempted murder from an incident in Northern Ireland 42 years ago," the MP said.

"Dennis Hutchings is not alone – we have Soldier B and we have Soldier F – what is happening is in direct contradiction to what the prime minister herself personally promised on our conference stage two years ago."

Tory MP Johnny Mercer raised the case of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings

He asked Mrs May what she was doing to "end this process, which is abhorrent to so many people in this country?"

The prime minister said she had made clear in the past that the "current system for dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past is not working well for anyone".

"As I have said before in this house, around 3,500 people were killed in the Troubles – the vast majority were murdered by terrorists," she said.

"Many of these cases require further investigation, including the deaths of hundreds of members of the security forces."

The Tory leader said the system for investigating the past needed to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the troubles but "also to ensure that our armed forces and police officers are not unfairly treated".

"That is why, across government, we are continuing to work on proposals on how best to move forward, but the Ministry of Defence is also looking at the wider issue of what more can be done to ensure that service personnel are not unfairly pursued through the courts in relation to service overseas, including considering legislation," she said.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson's claim earlier this week that the British government would "respond positively and recognise the voices that have been raised" in the consultation process, prompted Sinn Féin to accuse the DUP of "reneging" on proposals for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

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