Troubles' Veterans Accuse Government Of Abandoning Them To Prosecutions

An ex-serviceman who took part in Operation Banner told Forces News veterans are being treated like "political fodder".


The scene outside the RUC station in Moira, Northern Ireland, after a car bomb exploded in 1998 (Picture: PA).

A veteran whose alleged military actions during the Troubles in Northern Ireland has left him facing an attempted murder trial by a judge at the Supreme Court, has told Forces News he thinks that Operation Banner veterans are being treated like "political fodder".

Dennis Hutchings, a former Regimental Corporal Major in the Lifeguards who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, is facing prosecution.

Mr Hutchings denies charges of attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent relating to the killing of John Patrick Cunningham in 1974.

The 77-year-old is one of a number of veterans facing prosecution after serving during this period.

During a public meeting at Sutton Coldfield town hall,where campaigners voiced their concerns about investigations into so-called "legacy" killings, Mr Hutchings described the mood amongst Northern Ireland veterans:

"Very angry at the way we're being treated by the government - we're just fodder." 

He added: "As far as we're concerned we're disposable."

Last month, the new Chief of the Defence Staff said he would not allow British soldiers to be "chased" by people making "vexatious claims" about their conduct during the Troubles.

General Sir Nick Carter said serving and former service personnel should face action for "genuine" wrongdoing but he vowed groundless cases would not happen on his watch.

Four British soldiers have been charged over deaths dating back to 1972.

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

Operation Banner was the title for the military's operations there.

Over 250,000 people served in the conflict and more than 3,500 people lost their lives. At the heart of it was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

While the goal of the unionist majority was to remain part of the United Kingdom, the nationalist and republican minority wanted to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

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.

After the meeting, some were concerned about how their former colleagues are being treated:

Alan Barry, co-founder of 'Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans' had a message for the Prime Minister.

When asked what he wanted Theresa May to do, he said "drop the prosecutions":

A UK Government spokesperson said:

"This Government will always salute the heroism of our armed forces and police officers, and we must never forget our debt of gratitude we owe them. Without their contribution and sacrifice, there would have been no peace process in Northern Ireland.

"That is why it is so important that their voice is heard in this consultation. 

"Everyone acknowledges that the current system isn't working well for everyone, and we are consulting on the best way to move forward and create a fair, balanced and proportionate system for addressing the legacy of the Troubles."