Tory MP accuses Irish republicans of ‘witch-hunt’ against elderly British veterans

Tory MP accuses Irish republicans of ‘witch-hunt’ against elderly British veterans

A TORY MP has called for a time limit on prosecuting former British soldiers after accusing Irish republicans of a ‘witch hunt’ against Troubles veterans.

Richard Benyon, who served in the British Army in Northern Ireland, made his comments after presenting a Commons bill recommending a statute of limitations on Troubles prosecutions.

The bill won significant cross party on Wednesday after four Labour MPs gave it their backing.

Mr Benyon told MPs: “Many fear that we are seeing a form of retributive politics here.

“Extreme nationalist-leaning individuals within the Northern Ireland justice system have decided to reignite such investigations.”

The Conservative politician cited 78-year-old Dennis Hutchings, who is facing an attempted murder charge over the fatal shooting of a Northern Ireland man 43 years ago.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, a vulnerable man with learning difficulties, was shot dead in Benburb, Co. Armagh in 1974.

The MP added: “The person who slaughtered seven members of my battalion’s band, while they were playing to tourists in Regent’s Park, is known to the authorities, but he is not pursued.

“So why is Dennis Hutchings being pursued?

"Why are we now facing the possibility of potentially many more veterans receiving the knock on the door?”

As well as four Labour MPs, Mr Benyon was backed by former Conservative defence minister Mark Francois, who told Prime Minister Theresa May during PMQs: “We cannot pander to Sinn Féin”.

However, the British Government is refusing to support the law over fears it could inflame sectarian tensions in the North.

Theresa May could face backlash from her backbenches over the bill, as anger over accusations against aging Northern Ireland veterans continues to mount.