As most of us enjoy the summer months with a well-deserved break, may I ask you to spare a thought for military veterans across our nation?
Recently I met with retired members of our Armed Forces who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. They spoke of their dread to hear a knock on the door from those partaking in a witch hunt into killings during this tempestuous time.
Some entities are pushing Government to investigate military veterans and pursue them as potential murderers and manslaughter suspects over decisions they made in difficult circumstances, decades ago, at the height of the IRA’s terrorist campaign.
We must not forget that 90% of the Troubles related deaths were at the hands of terrorists. The disproportionate focus on the actions of State forces is causing immense damage and assists those who want to rewrite history and portray the State and its agents as villains.
Our armed Forces are required to do an incredibly complex and risky job maintaining peace and security whilst following orders handed down to them from politicians in Westminster. In conflict, situations occur that cannot accurately be anticipated, and in circumstances of great danger young soldiers are sometimes required to make split-second decisions—often working with limited information—to ensure the survival of their peers.
Our soldiers are relied upon to defend us against threats that many of those within the political class who formulate their orders, would cringe away from. Our military cannot be expected to think like politicians. With hindsight it is easy to criticise decisions made in the heat of battle or under great duress. The UK has the finest, most highly trained military in the world and their ongoing effectiveness in defending us depends upon their ability to act decisively and with confidence.
Where there is clear evidence of deliberate wrongdoing and abuse within the military, justice must be administered swiftly, with the court martial verdict delivered within nine months of the alleged offence.
Although the Northern Ireland reviews look at deaths that the IRA were responsible for, many suspected terrorists have been granted pardons or ‘comfort letters’ intended to protect them against prosecution. Nearly 200 IRA terror suspects received ‘get-out- of-jail-free cards’ from Tony Blair’s government. It is important to remember that our Armed Forces were the thin line that put themselves between the evil of terrorism and the law abiding people who just wanted to live normal lives. If it had not been for the professionalism, integrity, perseverance, bravery and decency of our soldiers, Northern Ireland would have descended into anarchy that would have spilled over into other parts of the UK.
We owe our military an eternal debt of gratitude, not persecution!
They saved lives and should not be hounded by self-serving Labour politicians and greedy lawyers.
When you draw up a peace agreement, surely one of the most important factors in that agreement is not to keep revisiting past events, raking them over, and inflaming old wounds again and again, and with the exception of the Republican side of the conflict which was given a very sectarian, and highly secret, form of one sided immunity from prosecution, that is exactly what we’ve seen for Unionists and the Security Services, the two other sides of the conflict, the latter being pig in the middle of a civil conflict that without their involvement would have escalated into a full scale civil war and blood bath. That last fact seems to have been forgotten.
What are the current generation of servicemen and women to think if they’re sent to do their job and follow orders in Northern Ireland or anywhere around the world? Will they be subject in their old age to criminal investigations 40-50 years after the event, for something they may or may not have done, in a highly stressful environment, whilst following someone else’s orders?
Things happen in war, and the people least qualified to judge them are civilian lawyers and judges. Even less qualified to judge them are people looking into them on scant evidence and information almost 50 years later.
The Democrats and Veterans Party have stated that we will honour the military covenant, unlike consecutive governments in recent times. To do this, we have set out ways and means of giving those who gave their all, not only their country’s national security, but global security too, by giving back to them something that will go a long way to showing the nation’s gratitude.
The Democrats and Veterans Party is committed to ensuring that ex-servicemen and women are fast-tracked for mental health care and services, if and where needed.
There should be nothing that hinders or prevents servicemen and servicewomen from receiving the best professional help possible when needed. Ultimately this policy would help to keep service personnel and military veterans from straying down the path of substance misuse, both legal and illegal, as they would have the best care possible at their fingertips, and would help to prevent homelessness amongst ex-service personnel.
So if proper treatment of and for our military veterans (both past and future) is important to you, join the DVP.