Northern Ireland news

Colum Eastwood criticises Arlene Foster over 'executioner' claim

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood used parliamentary privilege to name Soldier F
Seamus McKinney

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has accused former First Minister Arlene Foster of using “insensitive” language in claiming he acted as “judge, jury and executioner” by naming Soldier F under parliamentary privilege.

Mr Eastwood named the Bloody Sunday soldier in the House of Commons on Tuesday despite a court ruling that Soldier F should be allowed to maintain the anonymity granted to him in 1972. The Derry MP used the long-standing convention of parliamentary privilege and Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said yesterday that the SDLP leader did not break house rules.

Responding to Mr Eastwood’s decision, Mrs Foster tweeted: “Soldier F was given anonymity by a judge after hearing submissions in court but patently Colm (sic) Eastwood knows better and has set himself up as judge, jury and executioner. Never again can the SDLP lecture anyone else on rights and the rule of law. #justiceisblind #dueprocess.”

However, Mr Eastwood criticised the former DUP leader's comments.

He said: “In all of the criticism from senior unionist politicians, I have yet to hear anyone seriously reflect on the pain caused to the Bloody Sunday families by Soldier F when he shot their loved ones dead in Derry.

“I think the language that Arlene Foster used is particularly insensitive in that regard and, if the former First Minister wants the opinion of a judge on the actions of Soldier F, I would invite her to read the report compiled by former Supreme Court Justice, Lord Saville.”

Reaction to Mr Eastwood’s action was split with nationalists generally supporting the move while unionists condemned him. John Kelly, whose brother, Michael was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said he was delighted and thanked the SDLP leader.

Mr Kelly said: “Now it’s in Hansard (the report of Commons’ proceedings) and anyone can view his name.”

DUP MP, Gregory Campbell described the move as “reckless” while Ulster Unionist chairman, Danny Kennedy accused Mr Eastwood of “playing the populist card”.

Former Conservative veterans’ minister, Johnny Mercer said Mr Eastwood’s decision was “unnecessary and dangerous”. He said he did not defend Soldier F but would defend his right to a fair process. Derry Ulster Unionist councillor, Ryan McCready accused the Derry MP of increasing the risk to Soldier F’s life.

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