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PM attacks 'patently unfair' treatment of NI veterans

By Greg Heffer, Political Reporter
The Prime Minister has attacked a "patently unfair" situation in Northern Ireland as the Government came under pressure from Tory MPs to protect former British soldiers from prosecution over The Troubles.
A Cabinet divide has emerged over the establishment of an historical investigations unit to look into deaths related to the conflict in Northern Ireland, with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson warning ministerial colleagues of a "witch hunt" against ex-servicemen.
The Government is planning a consultation on the setting up of the unit, which is required as part of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, but have been warned by a string of Conservative MPs they will not support measures that do not exclude former British troops.During Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Theresa May was asked by Tory backbencher Julian Lewis whether a statute of limitations in dealing with historic cases would be a "legitimate option for consideration".This would effectively provide an amnesty for British ex-servicemen who were stationed in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.
PM attacks 'patently unfair' treatment of NI veterans

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Gavin Williamson warned against a 'witch hunt'
In reply, the Prime Minister described an "unfair situation" at the moment in Northern Ireland, in which "the only people being investigated for these issues that happened in the past are those in our armed forces or those who served in law enforcement in Northern Ireland".She added: "That is patently unfair - terrorists are not being investigated. Terrorists should be investigated and that is what the Government want to see."The issue was also raised earlier on Wednesday by MPs at Northern Ireland Questions, with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley pledging her support for a "consultation" on the commitment of the Stormont House Agreement.She said: "The status quo is not good enough. The only people getting knocks on the door from the police to tell them that they face inquests are from the military."We need to change that, which is why we need to issue a consultation."
PM attacks 'patently unfair' treatment of NI veterans

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Karen Bradley supports a consultation over the issue
On Tuesday, Ms Bradley was cautioned by Mr Williamson at a Cabinet meeting against a "witch hunt" of ex-soldiers, a source confirmed to Sky News.It was widely reported a number of other Cabinet ministers backed Mr Williamson's stance.His predecessor, Sir Michael Fallon, fought in Government to stop prosecutions against soldiers over allegations relating to The Troubles.He drew parallels between the plans for a Northern Ireland investigations unit and the controversial inquiry into British troops' actions in Iraq.Sir Michael told the Daily Mail: "Dropping the statute of limitations opens the door to yet another witch-hunt in which our troops, not the IRA, will be investigated about events 30 or 40 years ago."We should have learnt the lessons from the botched Iraq inquiry... we shouldn't reopen cases that have already been investigated."It's wholly unfair to treat soldiers doing their duty on a level with terrorists who were trying to kill them."
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The row comes as the UK Government continues with efforts to re-establish a power-sharing administration between the DUP and Sinn Fein at Belfast.It has been suggested an attempt to exclude former British troops from the historical investigations unit's work would be found illegal by courts and may jeopardise attempts to revive devolved government in Northern Ireland.
news.sky.com
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