Army veterans face years of ‘legacy inquests’ into those shot dead in Troubles

Army veterans face years of investigations over those shot dead in the Troubles.

The warning follows the disclosure that up to 50 “legacy inquests” are to begin in Northern Ireland in weeks.

The hearings relate to 71 deaths – many in the 1970s and 80s – and will take place over five years at a cost of at least £50million.

Around half the victims were shot by British troops.

Elderly veterans will be called to give evidence and could face prosecution if coroners rule that the victims were innocent and were unlawfully killed.

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Conservative MP and former defence minister Johnny Mercer

Former veterans minister Johnny Mercer claims he was forced to resign last month after clashing with the Government over the investigations.

Tonight the Tory MP for Plymouth, a former Army captain who served in Afghanistan, said: “These 50 inquests include some of the most convincing actions of the Troubles.

“In Loughgall, you had IRA men firing automatic weapons and detonating a device trying to kill RUC officers – one of the most clear-cut cases of being caught in the act, and we are to have yet another inquest?

“This situation is beyond parody and I’m ashamed that my government is overseeing it.

Army veterans face years of 'legacy inquests' into those shot dead in Troubles
Northern Ireland riots in 1971, in Londonderry

“This process will never end until politicians follow through on their promises to legislate to bring some order to this chaos.”

Several of the deaths relate to people shot by the Military Reaction Force, a secret covert unit which operated in the 1970s. Those members still alive are now in their late 70s.

Also listed for an inquest is the shooting of eight IRA men by the SAS as they attacked a police station in Loughgall, County Armagh, in 1987.

Boris Johnson has often pledged to stop “vexatious” prosecutions of ex-soldiers. But laws safeguarding troops on foreign ops do not cover those on deployment in Ulster from 1969 to 2007.

Legislation to address the issue has been delayed and there are claims that the Government fears provoking Republican Sinn Fein.

Army veterans face years of 'legacy inquests' into those shot dead in Troubles

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Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, 500 terrorists including IRA men were freed from jail early and 300 suspects were given guarantees they would not face prosecution.

Republican paramilitaries including the IRA caused about 60% of the 3,500 Troubles deaths.

Security forces were responsible for around 10%.

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