Leo Docherty: Minister pledges protection for Troubles veterans

Leo Docherty: Minister pledges protection for Troubles veterans

The new veterans minister has pledged legislation “soon” to protect British troops who served during the Troubles from unfounded prosecutions.

Leo Docherty, who took up the role on Wednesday, said ministers would give ex-soldiers who served in Northern Ireland the “protection” they deserved.

His predecessor in the role, Johnny Mercer, quit on Tuesday in protest at their treatment by the government.

He was unhappy at their exclusion from a bill debated by MPs on Wednesday.

The government says the Overseas Operations Bill will protect soldiers from “vexatious claims” for alleged historical offences in conflicts overseas.

Mr Mercer said he had been “forced” to resign because the government had failed to deliver on promises for a similar law covering Northern Ireland.

He said the government had “abandoned people in a way I simply cannot reconcile” in allowing “endless investigations” into historic killings to continue.

On Wednesday, the PM’s official spokesman said details of the new legislation would be announced “in the coming weeks”.

“There is more to be done on the issue of the Northern Ireland legacy and we are committed to making progress on this as quickly as possible,” he added.

“We are engaging with Northern Ireland parties and the community in Northern Ireland, including victims’ groups as well as the Irish government, on the way forward.”

Six former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles are currently facing prosecution.

In 2019, the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland said of 32 “legacy cases” it had ruled on since 2012, 17 related to republicans, eight to loyalists, and five were connected to the Army.

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