I note the judgement on Friday past from Mr Justice O’Hara, regarding veteran David Holden, and acknowledge that this has been a long and difficult process for everyone involved.
As the Northern Ireland Veterans Commissioner it is my responsibility to speak on behalf of the veterans who served during Operation Banner. In doing so, it is important to remind society that more than 1,000 members of the security forces lost their lives during this period in providing a safer Northern Ireland, not forgetting the many that were injured and still live with life changing injuries to this day. The vast majority of those who served during the Troubles did so with dignity and professionalism in order to help prevent civil war.
Since my appointment as Veterans Commissioner, in September 2020, there have been three legacy trials in Northern Ireland, all against veterans, with no cases being brought against republican or loyalist terrorists – in the eyes of veterans and others, they see this as an imbalance in the current legal system and are therefore discontented with what they see as a rewriting of history.
One of the most painful issues for Operation Banner veterans’ is the demonisation that is peddled by some sections of our community in Northern Ireland. The facts remain that 90% of deaths caused during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists (60% republican and 30% loyalist). Of those groups, the Provisional IRA were responsible for approximately 1,700 deaths.
Veterans respect the rule of law and were carrying out their uniformed duty under the most stressful of circumstances. Veterans do not equate their service to ever be considered equivalent to those who carried out acts of premeditated murder and terror – there is no moral equivalence between those who served in our security forces and members of terrorist organisations.
The legacy of Northern Ireland’s past is emotive and still very raw for many. I will continue to work towards a fair and balanced system, that recognises the peacekeeping duties of those that I represent, where their service is recognised for what it was, as opposed to being demonised and misrepresented by some.
Photo: Gilles Caron/Fondation Gilles Caron