Witch hunt against former soldiers continues, says military veterans group

Paul Young of the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement was speaking following the conviction of a former soldier for manslaughter.

David Holden court case – Belfast
David Holden court case – Belfast

A military veteran has backed a government Bill to end court cases around Northern Ireland’s troubled past as a former soldier was convicted for the manslaughter of a man 34 years ago.

David Holden was found guilty of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie close to an army checkpoint in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone in 1988.

Speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, Paul Young, national spokesman for the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement, said he was saddened by the verdict.

Paul Young, national spokesman for the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement, reacts outside Belfast Crown Court (Rebecca Black/PA)

“Veterans will be deeply disappointed by this verdict, I’m saddened by it, but it’s not over for David yet because his team, as far as I’m aware, are going to appeal the decision, and I think eventually, if necessary, go to the Supreme Court,” he said.

“I understand that the family are going to feel completely different to us veterans, and they will have their time to say what they say.

“But for us the witch hunt continues.”

Veterans demonstrated outside court in Belfast during Holden’s trial.

David Holden court case – Belfast
Veterans and Supporters United put up a banner outside Laganside Courts in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The government’s legacy Bill, which is going through its parliamentary stages, would see a form of immunity offered to those suspected of killings during the conflict if they agree to co-operate with a new truth recovery body.

It would also prohibit future civil cases and inquests related to Troubles crimes.

It has been almost universally opposed by parties across the political divide as well as victims’ groups.

David Holden court case – Belfast
David Holden (left) arrives at Laganside Courts in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Young voiced support for the legacy Bill to “stop any further prosecutions of veterans that have been previously investigated”.

“The terrorists have effectively got an amnesty … with letters of comfort, royal pardons,” he said.

“This witch hunt continues but that’s why we’re hopeful that the Bill that is going through Parliament will get passed into law next year.”

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