We can't give the IRA a free pass only to penalise our soldiers

THERE are many reasons to feel anger over what happened in Belfast this week.

The collapse of the trial of the soldiers known as A and C has been celebrated. But the case should never have come to court.

The two unnamed Northern Ireland veterans were facing trial for the 1972 killing of IRA leader Joe McCann. It takes a moment to get your head around each one of those facts.

The incident in question happened almost half a century ago. It was a very different time. Fifty years ago there was a brutal and bloody sectarian war going on in Northern Ireland.

British troops had been sent into Belfast to help the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). But thanks to the IRA and others they soon got dragged into a bitter civil war.

During the 30-year conflict that followed, some members of the British Army made terrible mistakes.

But most of the 300,000 soldiers who served did so with great courage and valour. And in appalling circumstances.

They were constantly targeted for death by the IRA. Around 700 British military personnel were killed by terrorists. Had the IRA had its way there would have been many more.

The killing of Joe McCann must be understood in that context. He was an IRA leader who was believed to be responsible for the deaths of 15 soldiers.

Most of the 300,000 soldiers who served did so with great courage and valour. And in appalling circumstances.

He was wanted, was on the run and was shot while resisting arrest, the court heard, although the Crown Prosecution Service argued the soldiers had not been legally justified in shooting him as he ran away from them.

There certainly were innocent victims in what became known as The Troubles. But Joe McCann was not one of them.

The trial of Soldiers A and C collapsed this week because the judge ruled the evidence inadmissible. But the soldiers should not have got off on this technicality. Indeed, they should never have been in court.

They were only there because of the Historical Enquiries Team which has spent recent years deciding which wounds from The Troubles should be reopened.

Their decisions have been bizarre. And disgracefully one-sided.

For although we did not know it at the time, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement included a side-deal.

Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell arranged assurances for IRA terrorists.

Terrorists who were “on the run” were given letters assuring them that they would not face trial.


In 2014, when one IRA leader was due to be tried for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, his trial collapsed. The terrorist’s lawyers produced a letter from the Blair Government assuring him he would not be tried for historic crimes.

If the British Government could give letters assuring terrorists they would not face trial, why can it not do the same for our soldiers?

How can it be right that the men who tried to kill British soldiers are given immunity while former servicemen still face the dock?

Why have terrorists been given a carefree retirement while our veterans have not?

Of course, it is right to hold our soldiers to a high standard.

But there is no serious suggestion the killing of Joe McCann was without cause. Doubtless, his family and friends think their relative should have been detained.

Since the ceasefire, the case has become a constant of Sinn Fein-IRA propaganda.

In 1972, the IRA was carrying out a remorseless, savage war.

But in 2021, it is very easy to pretend that a terrorist on active duty should have been carefully detained. Perhaps having been read his rights first, while he listened politely.

If this government has any courage, it must give former soldiers the same protection that a previous government gave to terrorists.

The two are not morally equal. But our soldiers certainly should not be treated worse. That is what has been happening.

The Government may not be able to make things right. But it can at least make things even.

Will the artful dodger

TOP actor Will Smith has published photos of him-self online looking less than fighting fit.

He took to Instagram this week to show that he isn’t all rippling with abs and pecs.

He told his 53million followers: “This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry. No more midnight muffins.”

Smith, 52, says he is publishing the photos in part because he now wants to get into the best shape of his life.

But fans should watch out. This is a classic celeb trick. They post photos of themselves looking fitter than 99 per cent of people and bemoan how fat they have become.

Smith should be in whatever fitness form he wants to be.

But fans won’t have much sympathy if they notice he looks better on the muffins than most of us do off them.

Julie's clean swipe

IN recent years HSBC has been criticised for kow-towing to the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. But they got some criticism a bit closer to home this week.

Julie Cousins was a cleaner at the bank. In fact, she’d been cleaning banks for 35 years. But in a resignation note posted by her son Joe on Twitter, she explained why she’d left her last job.

The agency employee wrote to her bosses: “I’ve left the job after the way you dressed me down in the office. It was nothing more than cruel but that’s a reflection on your character, not mine.”

She went on to remind her bosses: “You are all no better than the cleaner.”

I wish HSBC realised that. But they think they are better than the rest of us.

They spent recent years running anti-Brexit ads in the UK, constantly telling us off for voting the way we did in 2016.

I don’t know when banks decided they could lecture us. But it’s good to get a reminder from Julie that they are in absolutely no position to.

Spin it again, Saqid

AS voters in the capital head to the polls, it looks like Sadiq Khan will be re-elected as Mayor of London. Despite the fact he has worse than nothing to show for his five years in office.

He denies claims that crime in the capital has rocketed during his mayoralty. Or simply says it is not his fault.

In fact, there’s almost nothing that happens in London under his watch that the Mayor does take responsibility for.

Still, he finds time to grandstand on the world stage whenever he can.

He picks fights with our allies and backs divisive political causes which have nothing to do with Londoners.

It is hardly surprising the only thing that’s gone up on his watch even more than knife crime is the Mayor’s PR budget, which has soared by a third in four years.


Still, it looks like it’ll work for him. Cynical though it is, Khan seems to have realised that Londoners will vote for someone they know.

And good bloke though he is, the Conservatives’ Shaun Bailey just doesn´t have the name recognition Khan does.

So Londoners will be able to look forward to four more years of knife fights and other domestic nightmares.

While their Mayor has his eye on a much bigger stage. Which was always his goal.

Owe so stupid

OUR government was revealed to be in negotiations this week to pay off a £400million debt claimed by the Iranian government.

It goes back to the 1970s when the Shah of Iran ordered tanks from the UK. After the revolution by the Islamic extremists in Iran, we rightly did not deliver the tanks.

But now the Iranians are demanding this 50-year-old debt.

The idea is ridiculous. It was owed to a regime the crazed Mullahs overthrew. There are lots of things you may get if you organise a murderous revolution.

But an unblemished credit line from the British taxpayer should not be one of them.

Meg is a write joke

THE California influencer formerly known as the Duchess of Sussex has become an author. Like that great royal before her, Sarah Ferguson, Meghan has written a children’s book.

Purely, I am sure, because she dreamed of being an author. Not because a publisher threw a load of cash at her and said she could produce any old twaddle.

Sadly, twaddle seems to be what they’ve got. The Bench is due out next month and consists of a lot of pictures and not many more words.

Excerpts have already come out. We can read, for instance, of Meghan looking at “our beautiful boy”.

The book is apparently based on a poem she wrote for husband Harry after the birth of their son Archie.

Of course, there is a danger. If Meghan’s celebrity mates help make her book sell, the publisher will want more.

Perhaps Meghan, inset, could write one about the man who married her – and call it The Plank.

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