British criminals at work
British criminals at work

More than 1,300 members of the British Army have received a criminal conviction while stationed in Ireland in the last six years.

The figure was contained in a reply to a Parliamentary question to Ulster Unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon.

She said she was “absolutely shocked” by the revelation.

The figures indicated that the level of criminality within the British Army was relatively constant, reaching 300 convictions in 2003.

British Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram did not indicate what type of offences were committed.

Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan said the figures illustrated the need for the British Army to withdraw from Ireland.

“People will be shocked at the extent to which criminality permeates the ranks of the British Army serving in the six counties,” the North Antrim member said.

Mr McGuigan said the criminality was being tolerated by the British Army top brass.

“The only way in which the community in the six counties will be protected from the criminal excesses of the British Army is for the British Army to be removed from the six counties once and for all and for the British government to live up to the commitments it entered into over eight years ago with regard to demilitarisation.”

Meanwhile, plans to continue draconian search, arrest and entry powers for British troops in the North has been strongly criticised by nationalists.

Opening the second reading of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill at the London parliament, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said: “The Bill.. creates powers of entry, search, arrest and seizure necessary for the military to carry out their role effectively.”

The SDLP’s Eddie McGrady said the move potentially created a “hugely difficult political situation” as the actions of the British Army in Ireland are extra-judicial and not subject to civil oversight.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan pointed out that the measure reneged on commitments made in previous negotiations.

“These powers were previously contained in the Terrorism Act 2000,” he said. “The British government made commitments to repeal those provisions.

“This Bill effectively recycles the very powers the Government had previously committed to repeal,” he protested.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News