Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney believes British soldiers who committed unlawful assassinations during the unrest should face the same persecution as loyalist and nationalist paramilitaries.
Coveney said the only way to achieve true reconciliation in Northern Ireland was for those responsible for unlawful killings to be held accountable for their crimes.
The Foreign Secretary was speaking to The Sunday Times shortly before the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Northern Ireland announced that it would not prosecute “Soldier F” for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of five other people on Bloody Sunday. . Private F was the only British soldier to be indicted in connection with Bloody Sunday.
The announcement sparked widespread anger among nationalist communities in Northern Ireland, with the Pat Finucane Center calling the move an “insult” designed to protect British soldiers and the British state.
Coveney told the Sunday Times that there should be no distinction between terrorists and members of the security forces.
“I know that some people will distinguish between people they would consider terrorists and people who were part of the security forces at the time, [but] the only way to achieve true reconciliation in Northern Ireland is for people to be held accountable for the crimes that have been committed, whether or not they wear a uniform, “Coveney told The Sunday Times.
Coveney also criticized a decision by the British government earlier in the year to ban the prosecution of British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the unrest.
Legislation proposed by Boris Johnson’s Conservative government would introduce a statute of limitations for all crimes committed before the signing of the Good Friday deal in 1998, something Coveney strongly objected to.
âI made it very clear that I thought it was a mistake,â Coveney said.
âThe way forward here is to apply the law to everyone and recognize, of course, that because so many of these incidents happened many years ago, it will often not be possible to get a conviction. But you shouldn’t get more protection because you were wearing a uniform. ”
He said the Irish and UK governments have now started working with victim groups and political parties in Northern Ireland to try to find satisfactory legislation.