Am I next? Veteran’s concerns after Soldier F is prosecuted

Around 80 riders – many former soldiers – took part in a protest ride following a decision to charge a veteran over Bloody Sunday killings.

Press Association
Last updated: 12 April 2019 - 4.12pm

A veteran who took part in a protest ride to Stormont in support of Soldier F who is being charged over Bloody Sunday fears more prosecutions could follow.

The man, who gave his name as Tony, said he was involved in an incident during Northern Ireland’s troubled past and felt he was dealt with fairly at the time.

But he queried whether he should now expect a knock at his door.

Soldier F is to be charged with murdering two people after troops opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Londonderry in 1972.

Tony told Press Association: “Where will it end? We have the flags that say we support Soldier F but it is not only about Soldier F, it’s soldier a, b, c… and all after.

“Where are they going to go then, once they have finished with the alphabet, where will it end?

“We are saying that we want it to stop here. Soldiers carried out their duty at the time, they did as they were told.

Bloody Sunday bike protest
The Rolling Thunder ride was in support of Soldier F (Liam McBurney/PA)

“I was involved in an incident whereby I was detained, interviewed and released.

“I believe I was dealt with justly at the time. Do I sit and wait for 20 years for a knock at the door?

“And the rest of these gentlemen, mostly veterans, are they the same – just sit and wait for a knock at the door?”

The event took place in Belfast as a similar Rolling Thunder demonstration took place in London.

Around 80 riders, many of them military veterans, set off from the Cultra, Co Down, and arrived at Stormont, the seat of devolved government in Belfast, at around 1.30pm.

Bloody Sunday bike protest
Motorcyclists ride along Prince of Wales Avenue (Liam McBurney/ PA)

There was the sound of horns blasting and engines revving as the bikers rode up the mile-long Prince of Wales Avenue.

Parachute Regiment flags flew from a number of the bikes taking part.

Another participant, John Hutchinson – who served with the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire – said he feels Soldier F has been “scapegoated”.

“The officers who were in charge at the time and all the politicians are now dead. After the Saville Inquiry there has been this rump of an investigation and it seems it has become a sop to nationalists,” he said.

“One person is possibly going to be prosecuted for an event that happened in 1972 and after all those known terrorists got letters of comfort and have not been prosecuted, I don’t think it is fair that soldiers can be done, yet terrorists get to walk.

Bloody Sunday bike protest
A motorcyclists at the Stormont buildings in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Government is not looking after soldiers. We went out and did their bidding, we did jobs that no one else could do or would do.”

Soldier F will face charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service has said.

Some relatives of the 13 killed in Londonderry on January 30 1972, one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles, have long campaigned for justice.

A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by victims’ families and a campaign was launched for a new public inquiry.

Relatives sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed. A fresh probe was eventually ordered by then prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.

A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville concluded that the troops killed protesters who posed no threat.

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