Published On: Sat, Aug 17th, 2019

Veteran slams inquiry into Trouble death as ‘outrageous’ | UK | News

Seamus Bradley, who was 19-years-old, was shot dead in the Creggan area of Londonderry in July 1972. Troops from the Royal Scots had deployed to the area as part of Operation Motorman – the largest British military operation since the Suez Crisis in 1956. Its aim was to gain control of Republican areas across Northern Ireland which were considered no-go.

The army claimed Mr Bradley was shot while he was in a tree armed with a machine gun and suffered additional injuries when he fell.

However, his family insisted he was taken away in an army vehicle and sustained fatal injuries while under interrogation.

Judge Patrick Kinney, overseeing an inquest at Belfast Coroner’s Court last week rejected both versions of events.

Instead he ruled the teenager was killed by a soldier who got out of a Saracen vehicle, dropped to one knee and opened fire. Mr Kinney said he was going to send a report on the case to Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions (DPP).

If the soldier can be identified and is still alive, the DPP could decide to press changes against him.

Retired Lt Col John Charteris MBE, who was awarded the Military Cross for his service during the Troubles, commanded part of Operation Motorman which he still remembers clearly.

He said of the latest possible prosecution of a veteran: “I think it is outrageous – a travesty of justice which shows the lack of the government giving support to its army veterans.

“I am now in my 80s and my memory is not as good as it used to be but I can remember a lot of Operation Motorman because it was very high profile.

“This case is one of many cases where we as veterans are high incensed by the fact the Good Friday Agreement gave amnesty to one side – the IRA terrorists.”

He said it was unforgivable the current government has ruled out legal action against any soldier who was deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq but excluded those who served during the turbulent years in Northern Ireland.

Mr Charteris, whose grandfather was a WW1 hero and father also served in the Army, fears the latest case of a British Army veteran facing criminal charges will not be the last.

He added: “I am concerned there may be more cases coming in the future. This government is trying to give equal responsibility to the IRA and the British Army who were deployed by the government of the time.

“The army didn’t go [to Northern Ireland] for the good of its health. They were sent there to help the police who were being overwhelmed.

“We were sent there by the British Government to support the police but by the time we got there there was an armed struggle between the IRA and the public.

“We were given weapons and ammunition. It was not as if we were taking the law into our own hands.

“We were carrying out the orders of the British Government and should be protected by subsequent governments but we have seen soldiers – one of whom had cancer – being dragged to Ireland to face trial. It is utterly disgraceful.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said they acknowledged the outcome delivered by the coroner into the death of Seamus Bradley and would now review the detailed findings.

An inquest in 1973 returned an open verdict and Northern Ireland’s attorney general ordered a fresh inquest in 2013.

Operation Motorman was the biggest in Ireland since the Irish War of Independence. In the days before July 31, about 4,000 extra troops were brought into Northern Ireland resulting in almost 22,000 soldiers being involved aided by 5,300 soldiers from the local Ulster Defence Regiment. 

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