Northern Irish MP breaks down in tears recalling cousin's IRA death during House of Commons debate

Northern Irish MP breaks down in tears recalling cousin's IRA death during House of Commons debate

A DUP MP broke down in tears in the House of Commons yesterday during a debate about the prosecution of security force members.

Jim Shannon wept as he called for justice for his cousin Kenneth Smyth on December 10, 1971.

The Strangford MP served in the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) during The Troubles.

His speech came as MPs debated investigations and prosecutions into the actions of British veterans who served in Northern Ireland.

It emerged last year that more than 1,000 ex-servicemen are under investigation over 302 killings between 1969 and 2004.

The investigations into alleged crimes during The Troubles have been branded a “witch hunt” against veterans.

Fellow DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson started the debate by criticising human rights lawyers for perusing cases against ex-servicemen.

Mr Shannon replied: “I understand very well the concept of closure and wanting justice. I want justice for my cousin Kenneth Smith, who was murdered by the IRA.”

Coming to tears, he added: “I want justice for the four UDR men that the honourable member refers to, a few of whom I knew personally.

“And yet there’s no multimillion pound investigation available for that. So I resent the idea that this seems to once more represent that one life is worth more than another. It’s not and never will be.”

Mr Shannon said that false claims have been made against British veterans who served in Northern Ireland to “destroy the reputations of our armed forces.”

He added: “This can never be allowed to happen.”

Tory MP Edward Argar interjected to praise the Northern Irishman for speaking “so movingly and eloquently.”

Mr Shannon replied: “I thank him for his intervention, which probably came just at the right time.”

Mr Shannon’s speech attacking retrospective action against veterans came in stark contrast to a speech given by Charlie Flanagan on Thursday.

Speaking at an event organised by Relatives for Justice in Belfast, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said: "Regardless of who someone was and regardless of what they were doing there is a requirement to effectively and meticulously investigate their death.

"It is not for Governments to say to the bereaved that their loss or suffering is of greater or lesser worth than that of their neighbour or even their adversary.

He added: "Similarly, let me say clearly, there can be no amnesties. If a killing has taken place it must be properly investigated to ascertain if it was unlawful and thereafter – if the threshold of proof is met – a prosecution legitimately, actively and vigorously pursued.

Given some of the misinformation that is in the public domain around this issue I understand how concerns about a perceived imbalance may have arisen so let me address that.

"This process is not about seeking to find an artificial balance or equivalence but about ensuring that we have a comprehensive approach. That means looking at all Troubles related deaths regardless of who the perpetrator was."

Speaking to MPs as part of the debate, Northern Ireland minister James Brokenshire said that there was “no moral equivalence” between veterans and terrorists.

Mr Brokenshire said: "We will never accept any kind of spurious moral equivalence between those who sought to uphold the rule of law and the terrorists who sought to destroy it."