SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said he has received death threats after naming a former British soldier who has faced multiple murder charges over his involvement in the Bloody Sunday massacre.
The Derry MP used parliamentary privilege to identify so-called ‘Soldier F’ during a House of Commons debate this week. The name of the soldier has appeared across Derry in social media recently following an announcement that the prosecution against him for two of the 14 murders of civil rights demonstrators is to be abandoned.
Mr Eastwood said he had since received deaths threats online and via email.
“It is not nice, particularly when you have a family,” he said. “I did what I thought was right on behalf of the Bloody Sunday families. Those people have faced a whole lot worse than death threats.”
He said those responsible can “expect a knock on the door” from the PSNI.
There was a strong response from the DUP to Eastwood’s actions, with former DUP leader Arlene Foster claiming he had “set himself up as judge, jury and executioner”.
DUP leadership figure Sammy wilson described the statement to the London parliament as “cowardly, malicious and knowingly dangerous”. He said Eastwood was “pandering to populist republican sentiment” and that the life of the “gentleman” who fired on several innocent anti-internment protestors had been put at risk.
Mr Eastwood rejected the comments.
He said: “In all of the criticism from senior unionist politicians, I have yet to hear anyone seriously reflect on the pain caused to the Bloody Sunday families by Soldier F when he shot their loved ones dead in Derry.
“I think the language that Arlene Foster used is particularly insensitive in that regard and, if the former First Minister wants the opinion of a judge on the actions of Soldier F, I would invite her to read the report compiled by former Supreme Court Justice, Lord Saville.”
John Kelly, whose brother, Michael was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said he was delighted the soldier’s anonymity had been broken and thanked the SDLP leader.
Mr Kelly said: “Now it’s in Hansard (the report of Commons’ proceedings) and anyone can view his name.”