First British soldier convicted for Troubles-era killing

British Army patrol, Belfast
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For the first time, a former British soldier has been convicted of a killing during the Troubles in the North of Ireland. A Belfast court found David Holden guilty of the 1988 manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie. The killing occurred at a checkpoint when Holden was an 18-year-old soldier. McAnespie was 23.

Holden claimed that his wet trigger finger slipped. However, the judge was withering in his comments, saying Holden had given a “deliberately false account”.

Legacy of war

As Sky News mentioned in their tweeted clip, only six soldiers have ever been charged, with two of those cases collapsing, and another accused veteran dying before a judge could rule:

Such a tiny numbers of cases coming before a judge are a stark contrast to the amount of coverage and outcry generated. For many years there have been right-wing cries of a witch hunt and suggestions of large-scale investigations ruining honourable men’s lives.

And yet, there has been only one single conviction.

The truth is there was no witch hunt. There is just an attempt at a basic process of justice repeatedly hindered and shouted down by the British authorities and their cronies in the press and ex-forces community.

Just this week, a step towards the permanent denial of justice and transparency has been taken in the Lords.

Legacy and Reconciliation Bill

As the Canary reported on 24 November, the new Legacy and Reconciliation Bill has had its second reading in the Lords. The bill, if passed, would make convictions – already extremely unlikely – even more difficult. Instead, it would replace judicial processes with a committee, which are likely to be little more than a history reading group.

Dubbed the Bill of Shame, former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain said of the proposals:

By offering a low-bar immunity to the perpetrators of some of the most horrific crimes imaginable it is telling them that what they did no longer matters.

This, then, is British justice in Ireland. Its implications for the families of those killed, and for stability and reconciliation in a country which has known too little of either, are as dark as the legacy of occupation itself.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Jeanne Boleyn, cropped to 770 x 403.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Of course the vast majority of killings were by the terrorists,mostly by the IRA.Hundreds of murders by the IRA never resulted in a conviction and the murderers who were convicted were released under the Good Friday agreement and came home to a heros welcome.Gerry Adams even compared the killers of 6 month old baby whose father was in the RAF to Nelson Mandela.When evil people like that talk about justice its time for the sick bucket.

      1. Very true. Certainly, the killers in the deeply corrupt RUC and the British Army should be prosecuted; sadly, the IRA has largely escaped any campaigns for justice, it being seen as ‘of the people’ despite its vicious, cruel and barbaric treatment of any people who it deemed traitorous to its cause.

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