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UK junior defence minister resigns over veterans being investigated for Troubles killings

Johnny Mercer said that this had been a “red line” issue for him, and that he is “deeply proud” of veterans who served in Northern Ireland.
Apr 20th 2021, 9:13 PM 29,928 41

JOHNNY MERCER HAS been “forced to quit” as the UK’s junior defence and veterans minister, a Downing Street spokeswoman confirmed.

The former British Army officer has been reported to be unhappy about the handling of former personnel being investigated for killings in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

In a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, dated tomorrow, Mercer said: “I have a duty to tell [veteran's] truth to power.

Perhaps nothing embodies this more than what we are asking our veterans in their seventies and eighties to relive, through endless re investigations and inquests, into events often more than fifty years ago in Northern Ireland.

“Almost all these events were investigated at the time, and without the emergence of any new evidence and simply a changing of the political tide, we have abandoned our people in a way I simply cannot reconcile.

“Whilst endless plans are promised and solutions mused, veterans are being sectioned, drinking themselves to death and dying well before their time – simply because the UK government cannot find the moral strength or courage we asked of them in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, in finding a political solution to stop these appalling injustices.”

Mercer added that Johnson has known that this was a “red line” issue for him, and that he is “deeply proud” of his “predecessors” who served in Northern Ireland.

Mercer has been heavily involved in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which is going through its final stages in the UK parliament.

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The legislation was developed in response to legal claims made after operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not cover incidents in Northern Ireland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked the MP for Plymouth Moor View for his service as a minister following his resignation on Tuesday, according to a No 10 spokeswoman.

The statement released shortly after 7pm said: “This evening the Prime Minister has accepted the resignation of Johnny Mercer as minister for defence people and veterans.

“He thanks Johnny Mercer for his service as a government minister since 2019.”

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Gráinne Ní Aodha

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