Colum Eastwood uses parliamentary privilege to name Soldier F

The soldier has been accused of two murders on Bloody Sunday in 1972

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said for 50 years, Soldier F has been granted anonymity. Photograph: Margaret McLaughlin

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said for 50 years, Soldier F has been granted anonymity. Photograph: Margaret McLaughlin

 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has used parliamentary privilege to name Soldier F, who has been accused of two murders on Bloody Sunday in 1972, in the House of Commons. Mr Eastwood made his intervention during a speech on the Armed Forces Bill by Labour’s shadow veterans’ minister, Stephanie Peacock.

“Almost 50 years ago, 14 unarmed civil rights marchers were murdered on the streets of Derry by the Parachute Regiment,” he said, adding that five of those victims had been shot by the man he named, otherwise known as Soldier F.

“For 50 years, he’s been granted anonymity. Now the government wants to give him an amnesty. Does the shadow minister agree with me that nobody, none of the perpetrators involved in murder during our Troubles, should be granted an amnesty?” he said.

Earlier this month, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it would not proceed with Soldier F’s prosecution for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney because there was “no longer a reasonable prospect” of key evidence against him being ruled admissible in court. Soldier F also faces charges for the attempted murders of Patrick O’Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn.

A judge last month allowed Soldier F to retain his anonymity, which was granted by successive inquiries into the events of Bloody Sunday. A threat assessment carried out in March this year found that he was at low risk from dissident republicans but the judge said the threat level could rise if he was denied anonymity and that a “real threat does exist”.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among those killed on Bloody Sunday, praised Mr Eastwood for naming Soldier F. “I am delighted he did it. What Colum did was the right and correct thing to do,” he said.

“The families have known his name for many, many years, but were barred from divulging his name,” Mr Kelly said. “But now that Colum has actually divulged it, it is [in] the public domain, it is on record so he cannot hide any longer.”

Mr Kelly did not accept that releasing his name could threaten the life of Soldier F, as a court had ruled. “I think the argument that his life could be in danger is a load of rubbish,” he said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis will on Wednesday publish proposals to end all prosecutions for Troubles-related offences committed by former service personnel or paramilitaries before 1998. All main political parties in Northern Ireland, along with the Irish Government, oppose the idea of a blanket amnesty.