Former army chief is ‘disappointed’ with the Queen’s speech. But not for the reason that he should be.

Queen and British soldiers in Afghanistan
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

Former British army chief Richard Dannatt said he was “very disappointed” with the content of the Queens speech. Dannatt feels disappointed as legislation to give an amnesty from prosecution to British army veterans of the conflict in the north of Ireland was ‘cut‘ from her speech.

But it’s the victims of British army killings who should be ‘disappointed’. Because the Irish and British governments agreed mechanisms, under the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) in 2014, to deal with these killings. And, as a victims’ justice campaigner told The Canary, these mechanisms won’t be in the speech either.

Low level of British prosecutions

Calls from Dannatt and others for an amnesty for British soldiers beggars belief. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is investigating a far greater number of killings attributed to Irish republicans than to British soldiers. And currently, just six British soldiers are facing prosecution.

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.




Of the 3,637 people believed to have been killed during the 30-year conflict in the north, just 10% are attributed to British security forces and 30% to loyalist paramilitaries. But that figure doesn’t give the complete picture. Because journalist Anne Cadwallader’s book Lethal Allies reveals collusion between British security forces and loyalist paramilitaries. Between 1972 and 1976 alone, collusion was responsible for 120 killings.

So if so few prosecutions of British security forces have followed, you could be forgiven for thinking that some kind of amnesty is already in place. Which is why you would also have to wonder why Dannatt and others want further protection.

Nobody is above the law

As Dannatt says:

Nobody is above the law. If soldiers have broken the law and if there is evidence to back up charges against them, then of course they must face the rigours of the law and take the consequences.

But in the vast majority of cases, British soldiers, particularly in the campaign in Northern Ireland, got up in the morning to do their duty to keep the peace according to the rules of engagement we had

So neither he nor any British soldier who served in the north should need new legislation.

What needs to happen

The Time For Truth (TFT) campaign is one group representing victims’ families. And it has three demands:

  1. Implement and adequately resource the Stormont House Agreement legacy mechanisms in a human rights compliant manner.
  2. Adequately resource the Lord Chief Justice’s 5-year plan to clear the backlog in legacy inquests.
  3. Adequately resource the Office of the Police Ombudsman to allow it to complete outstanding historical investigations.
Lack of movement

Yet despite the number of killings that can be attributed to loyalists or British forces during the conflict, they seem to go almost unnoticed and unreported today. Because neither the mainstream media nor the British government appears to be taking them seriously. One campaigner told The Canary that without legislation to implement such mechanisms, pressure will increase:

on the PSNI and the criminal justice system here who have a statutory responsibility to deal with investigations and due process into our past and who are ill equipped and reluctant to do so.

In any political climate, stalling on matters of grave importance could cause unease. And as the presence of customs borders on the island of Ireland remain uncertain, it’s unease we really do not need. Time these families had justice.

Featured image via Flickr – Foreign & Commonwealth Office / Flickr – ResoluteSupportMedia

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support
  • Show Comments
    1. The BIG question now resident of N/Ireland + U.K.
      WHO will be patrolling the new Tory Govt broader?
      In N/Ireland –Our British force or N/Ireland forces,
      or E.U. forces Boris is not making this clear to us voters
      So, I have put some point for our Tory Govt to respond on.
      /////
      Former army chief is ‘disappointed’ with the Queen’s speech,
      But not for the reason’ that he should be.

      Interesting article but how true is it???
      And are Tory Govt behind not prosecuting any British
      Top ranking Officer’s? Not just the lad or ladies on the front line for any war crimes here (yes war crimes) Our British Officer + armed forces personal,
      were at war with I.R.A. + over forces in N/Ireland true point.
      //
      Some more point I wish to ask Tory Govt and them to respond to before we leave E.U. in Oct 2019 as they will affect what unfold with this mess ongoing now.
      P-1
      Will our young T.A. as Tory Govt have cut our main armed forces personal down to the born now be sent to petrol the new N/Ireland broader Tory Govt Minister are putting in place so we can leave E.U. unheeded by N.I. broader problem, Yes or no? Boris.
      P-2
      If amnesty for British soldiers is put in place would this decision not help I.R.A. recruit more staff yes or no?
      P-3
      Will our troops be them old serving staff or Young T.A.
      Be told they are not at war just policing the broader
      Therefore, no need for them to be armed yes or no?
      P-4
      Therefore, if British Govt Minister or Prime Minister may or may not proceed in presorting any in the Old war crimes committed (if proven) what justice will be given to the relatives of old war crime in N/Ireland and U.K. Back before Good Friday agreement was put in place will old court hearing underway now before we leave E.U. still go ahead yes or no? Boris.
      P-5
      What safe guilds is Tory Govt putting in place to protect us in U.K/Wales/Scotland from any backlash From any N/Ireland party leader over the possibility
      Of amnesty for British soldiers from old war crimes if any was committed by any armed force personal manning the boarders in the troubled time back trying to keep the peace In N/Ireland and out of I.R.A. hands. I as a British citizen would like Tory Govt Minister + Boris to respond to this post,Before we leave E.U. FULLY
      under their rule in Oct 2019

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.