Falls Road Belfast Troubles
Northern Ireland

'Witch Hunt' Northern Ireland Investigations Condemned By Former Army Chief

Lord Dannatt has been speaking before a debate takes place in the House of Lords into the legacy of the Troubles.

Falls Road Belfast Troubles

A Belfast street during the Troubles (Image: PA).

A former head of the Army has condemned new investigations into decades-old military activities in Northern Ireland as a "witch hunt".

Lord Dannatt has been speaking about the investigations against soldiers who served during the Troubles before a debate takes place in the House of Lords into the legacy of the conflict.

"I think witch hunt is a reasonable term to use," he told Forces News.

The conflict in Northern Ireland known, as the Troubles, was between 1968 and 1998.

Lord Dannatt said the new investigations were "distasteful" to soldiers who served in Northern Ireland nearly 50 years ago.

'Why decades later do we think we know more?'

"What people have to remember is that those events, those incidents were investigated fully at the time by the Royal Military Police and where necessary by the Royal Constabulary.

"These events were looked at - a decision was made and in most cases nothing to answer for. So why 30, 40 years later do we think we know better, do we think we know more?" 

To address his concerns, the former Army Chief said he has brought the matter to the House of Lords to spark a debate. 

He said: "That's why I've got a debate in the House of Lords to raise awareness of these issues - and this will go on until the Government says enough is enough. 

"There are other issues relating to Northern Ireland politics - but don't drag the British Army into that."

Several attempts to find a political solution failed until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 which restored self-government to Northern Ireland and brought an end to the Troubles.

But retrospective cases against those who served during the conflict are now a cause for concern amongst veterans.

Yesterday, MPs heard from two former Commanding Officers on how they feel veterans could be better protected from investigations into historical events.

In July, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was "prepared to go to any lengths" to prevent what he described as a "vendetta against former service personnel" who served in Northern Ireland.

Mr Williamson later announced he had set up a team to look at proposals to protect armed forces veterans from prosecution for historic allegations.

The legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland is to be discussed in the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon.