Great Britain

Former minister’s anger over failure to bring forward bill to protect Northern Ireland veterans

A minister who resigned from Boris Johnson’s government over the failure to protect armed forces veterans of the Northern IrelandTroubles has voiced his frustration at the absence of legislation on the issue in today’s Queen’s Speech.

Former Army captain Johnny Mercer said the government had promised its legislative timetable for the coming year would include action on the issue.

But the list of 25 new pieces of legislation unveiled by the monarch in the House of Lords today did not include a bill. Instead, there was only a promise that legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and end the “cycle of investigations” would be brought forward at some point this year.

There was anger from both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland at recent reports suggesting that ministers want to scrap criminal trials both both veterans and former members of paramilitary groups in favour of an approach similar to the “truth and reconciliation” model used by Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

A recent trial of two British Army paratroopers accused of murdering IRA member Joe McCann in 1972 collapsed after evidence gathered by the Historical Enquiries Team was ruled inadmissible.

Responding to the absence of a bill in today’s Queen’s Speech, Mr Mercer said: “I was personally promised this on a number of occasions. It was never delivered. Hence I resigned. 

“My successor promised it would be in the Queens Speech. It is not. At some stage, we must fulfil our promises to our veterans.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We will fulfil our commitments that we have set out and there will be legislation announced on this in the coming weeks.

“So, we will deliver on that commitment.”

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