The new Conservative government in London has set out its intention to block future investigations into British soldiers who murdered civilians in the north of Ireland -- even as a jailed republican was found liable for a 1982 IRA attack.
John Downey has been held civilly liable for the deaths of four British soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park attack, according to a ruling by London’s High Court of Justice ruled Wednesday. In a separate development, Mr Downey was accorded bail on Friday on other IRA charges under strict conditions and a six-figure bail bond.
Mr Downey was arrested in London in 2014, charged and ultimately tried in connection with the 1982 attack, but was cleared when the case collapsed. Supported by the British establishment, relatives of the British soldiers killed subsequently took a civil lawsuit seeking damages.
Wednesday’s ruling by Justice Amanda Yip found Downey to be an “active participant” in the bombing, opening the way to a second phase in which an amount of damages will be determined.
Mr Downey, who was in Maghaberry jail over unrelated historical charges when the judgement was issued, did not participate in the civil trial but in a written statement denied involvement in the Hyde Park attack. He has been targeted for special treatment by the British judicial system over his receipt of an ‘OTR letter’ issued as part of the peace process. It was revealed that the letters were given to certain republicans ‘on the run’ from potential prosecution to provide an assurance that they would no longer be pursued, to the fury of unionists.
The treatment of the Donegal pensioner, who was arrested in early November and endured a heavy-handed extradition into British jurisdiction, has contrasted sharply with the kid-gloves handling of British soldiers accused of war crimes against Irish nationalists.
During the ‘Queen’s Speech’ this week, which marked the resumption of the Westminster parliament and set out the plans of Boris Johnson’s government, it was announced by Queen Elizabeth Windsor that the Tory government would bring forward proposals to “tackle vexatious claims that undermine our armed forces”.
The comments are being seen as a signal that at least some killer soldiers are set to be granted immunity.
There was anger in Ireland at the suggestion that prosecutions over the Bloody Sunday massacre and other atrocities could be described as “vexatious”. It is understood Johnson is also set to amend the Human Rights Act in Britain so it does not apply to British Army killings.