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I served in Northern Ireland. It’s clear that there should be no amnesty for veterans

4 35 0
22.05.2019

I had very little understanding of events in Northern Ireland while studying for my A-levels at a state grammar school in Guildford in 1972. My subsequent time at Sandhurst left me none the wiser. Entering military academy later that year, I assumed that I was embarking on a well-worn trail in the relationship between ethics and military duty. Of this I was quickly disabused.

As officer cadets we trained in internal security drills, which usually ended with direction to shoot dead the “demo” Gurkha soldier, ringleader of a rioting mob – conveniently wearing a red T-shirt. This was taught doctrine at that time and was repeated in later training. Small wonder, perhaps, that some soldiers may have been under the impression that killing rioters was accepted army doctrine.

My first tour of Northern Ireland as a second lieutenant with 2 Para (2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment) in June 1973 was quite an eye-opener. As a young officer I swallowed whole the regimental line that soldiers from our first battalion had been under attack during a civil rights march in Derry in 1972, on what became known as Bloody Sunday, and responded accordingly with lethal force. I had no knowledge at all of a previous incident in Ballymurphy in August 1971 – later referred to as a massacre – in which 10 civilians were shot dead allegedly by paratroopers in the small west Belfast neighbourhood during disturbances prompted by the introduction of internment without trial.

In more recent times these events have been the focus of greater media and judicial interest. I have read both the Widgery and the Saville reports into Bloody........

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