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Defence Secretary Makes Pledge Over 'Vendetta' Against NI Veterans

Gavin Williamson says he is "prepared to go to any lengths" to prevent a "vendetta against former service personnel" who served during The...

Northern Ireland The Troubles Falls Road Belfast British Soldiers

Cover: Troops on duty during the Troubles in Belfast. (Picture: PA).

The Defence Secretary says he is "prepared to go to any lengths" to prevent what he calls a "vendetta against former service personnel" who served during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Sun newspaper has today published excerpts from a letter which Gavin Williamson sent to the Prime Minister back in May as government departments discussed how to implement the Stormont House Agreement.

The agreement is designed to create a more stable Northern Ireland and includes the creation of a new body to investigate outstanding Troubles-related deaths.

Mr Williamson wrote to the Prime Minister asking that veterans are "given the protection they deserve", saying:

"It is clear to me that our veterans need the protection of a statute of limitations in respect of Troubles-related offences.

"If this means a wider amnesty, so be it: in the public mind the effect of the Good Friday Agreement sentencing reforms, the ‘On the Run’ letters which inadvertently led to the failure of the prosecution of John Downey for the 1982 Hyde Park bombings, and the apparent disproportionate focus of the current investigation on security forces amount to a de facto amnesty for terrorists already."

However, a Downing Street spokeswoman on Friday said:

"We cannot countenance a proposal where amnesties would be provided to terrorists.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the bravery of the soldiers and police officers who upheld the rule of law and are accountable to it."

Responding to the story on Twitter, Mr Williamson said:

"The reality is that I’m prepared to go to any lengths to stop this ridiculous vendetta against former service personnel.

"Hopefully that is exactly what other colleagues are also pushing for."

The Defence Secretary's comments have been welcomed by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee:

While others have condemned Mr Williamson's comments:

Consultation over the Stormont House Agreement is expected to end in September.