Ex-soldier criticises Tories’ veterans prosecution pledge

Eamon McDevitt was 28 years old when he was shot dead by the British Army.
Eamon McDevitt was 28 years old when he was shot dead by the British Army.

A former British soldier whose brother was shot dead by the army almost 50 years ago has branded a Conservative Party pledge to protect NI veterans from prosecution as a “political ploy”.

Sammy McDevitt’s brother, Eamon, who was deaf and could not speak, was gunned down at Fountain Street in Strabane on August 18, 1971, following an anti-internment march in the town.

1960s... Sammy McDevitt, dressed in his British Army uniform, pictured with his sister, Jean, and brother, Eamon, during a visit home to Strabane.

1960s... Sammy McDevitt, dressed in his British Army uniform, pictured with his sister, Jean, and brother, Eamon, during a visit home to Strabane.

At the time, the British Army claimed Eamon (28) was brandishing a pistol when he was shot.

But scores of local people came forward to tell authorities that not only was Eamon unarmed but he was posing no threat.

Sammy McDevitt, who joined the British Army in 1956 at the age of 20 and served for 12 years in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, has hit out at the Tories’ Armistice Day promise to change the law to protect soldiers who served in NI.

“This is just a ploy. It’s a game to get people to vote,” said Mr McDevitt.

He added: “I joined the British Army in the 1950s like so many others who had no jobs and no opportunities. I served for 12 years. I returned home to Strabane in the late 1960s and just a couple of years later my brother was shot dead by the army. The Tories talk about cases that have been thoroughly investigated and are repeatedly through the courts. I haven’t had my day in court. I have had no justice for my brother. It is an insult to both me and my brother’s memory to talk of amnesties on Armistice Day.”

Meanwhile, Paul O’Connor, of human rights group, the Pat Finucane Centre, has claimed the latest Tory pledge was “legally dubious, morally questionable and factually incorrect”.

He claimed: “When it comes to the possible prosecutions of former soldiers arising from the conflict in Ireland, the Tories would appear to have the same inability to grasp the actual detail as they do when it comes to Brexit and the Irish border. This is cynical electoral spin doctoring designed to coincide with Remembrance Day.

“These repeated interventions by the Conservative Party have no sound legal basis and cannot be taken seriously,” he added.