Northern Ireland

Legacy bodies will be 'fair and balanced' - Theresa May

Theresa May Image copyright HOC
Image caption Mrs May also said investigations by the PSNI "are of course a matter for them as they are independent of Government"

The prime minister has given assurances new legacy bodies will be under legal obligations to be "fair, balanced and proportionate".

Theresa May was speaking after criticism of the decision to re-open legacy cases involving members of the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland.

Conservative MP Richard Benyon raised the issue in PMQs on Wednesday.

Mrs May said veterans would not be "unfairly treated or disproportionately investigated".

Mr Benyon said those who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles "should feel appreciated for the difficult job they did, not being hounded into old age by investigations of this kind".

"I know that (Mrs May) will be as alarmed and angered as many at the decision of the Northern Ireland judicial authorities to re-open the so-called legacy cases involving past and present members of the Armed Forces," he said.

He said the cases were being meticulously investigated and represented just 10% of deaths in the Troubles.

"A line really does need to be drawn here," said Mr Benyon.

"Does she agree that it is wrong to single out any group for this kind of investigation and that the hundreds of thousands of people who served in Northern Ireland should feel appreciated for the difficult job they did, not be hounded into old age by investigations of this kind?"

Image copyright HOC
Image caption Conservative MP Richard Benyon raised the issue in Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday

'Unstinting admiration'

Mrs May said: "We are unstinting in our admiration for the role that our Armed Forces played in ensuring that Northern Ireland's future would only ever be decided by democracy and consent".

"The overwhelming majority served with great distinction and we do indeed owe them a great debt of gratitude.

"But as part of our work to implement the Stormont House Agreement we will ensure that new legacy bodies will be under legal obligations to be fair, balanced and proportionate.

"That will make sure that our veterans are not unfairly treated or disproportionately investigated and will indeed reflect the fact that 90% of deaths in the Troubles were caused by terrorists and not by the Armed Forces.

"But of course as he will understand... the investigations by PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) are of course a matter for them as they are independent of Government."

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland's senior judge criticised the lack of political progress on dealing with legacy issues.

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, still has not received a response to his proposals to deal with inquests into some of the most controversial Troubles killings.

He had asked the Stormont Executive to fund his five-year plan last February, saying the state had a legal obligation to ensure so-called legacy inquests take place.

More on this story