Northern Ireland

Protests over Army Troubles prosecutions

Former soldier Dennis Hutchings (centre) attended Saturday's protest in London Image copyright PA
Image caption Former soldier Dennis Hutchings (centre) attended Saturday's protest in London

A protest against the prosecution of former soldiers for killings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been met with counter-demonstrations.

Supporters of Army veterans have staged a protest at Horse Guards Parade in London, demanding an end to what they have called a "witch hunt".

But campaigners seeking justice for those killed by soldiers want the prosecution cases to continue.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Former soldiers and supporters of Dennis Hutchings took the protest march past Buckingham Palace

They have held counter-protests in London and four Northern Ireland sites.

Supporters of the veterans have called their demonstration "I am Dennis Hutchings" to highlight the case of an elderly former soldier.

Mr Hutchings is facing trial for the attempted murder of a man who was shot dead in County Armagh in 1974.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption John Pat Cunningham was shot dead in 1974

John Patrick Cunningham, 27, was unarmed when he was shot in a field close to his home outside Benburb.

Saturday's counter-demonstrations have been called "I am John Pat Cunningham - I'm dead".

The dead man's friends held a vigil at Horse Guards Parade at the same time as the veterans' protest.

At one stage, some people attending the veterans' protest shouted questions about past IRA atrocities at Mr Cunningham's supporters.

Image caption A banner in support of John Pat Cunningham's family was erected in Derry

Those attending the vigil did not respond to the remarks.

Other counter-protests took place in Belfast, Londonderry, Strabane in County Tyrone and at the scene of Mr Cunningham's shooting in County Armagh.

They were organised by members of the Pat Finucane Centre and the Relatives for Justice campaign group.

The protest in support of former soldiers was staged by a group called Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans.

Image copyright Pat Finucane Centre
Image caption Mr Cunningham's supporters gathered in Derry and at other sites in Northern Ireland

Campaigners have previously described the prosecution process as a "one-sided witch hunt".

They have claimed that former soldiers are being brought to court while paramilitary suspects have been granted immunity from prosecution.

In January, the director of public prosecutions in Northern Ireland defended his record of impartiality in respect of the cases.

Barra McGrory QC said critics who accused him of treating former soldiers unfairly had insulted him and his office.

Figures from the Police Service of Northern Ireland have shown that investigations by the Army account for about 30% of its legacy workload.

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