SNP MSP criticised over response to Scottish soldiers killed by IRA

The cenotaph in Belfast city centre, which became a focus for public mourning following the 1971 killings
The cenotaph in Belfast city centre, which became a focus for public mourning following the 1971 killings
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An SNP MSP who described the IRA as “freedom fighters” has been branded “unbelievable” for refusing to sign a motion pressing the Scottish government to support justice for three murdered soldiers.

Fusiliers Dougald McCaughey, 23, John McCaig, 17, and Joseph McCaig, 18, were drinking in a Belfast bar in 1971 when IRA men befriended them and invited them to meet girls at a party.

They were then taken to the outskirts of Belfast and shot in the head, prompting the killings to become known as ‘The Honey-trap Murders’.

The London lawyers who successfully brought a civil action which saw four men found liable for the 1998 Omagh bomb has launched a fund-raising appeal for a similar action against the alleged 1971 killers.

Glasgow MSP John Mason caused outrage with his comments on Twitter in February 2017 when asked to endorse the campaign.

In his response, he said: “Happy to support all campaigns to bring about justice. But not taking sides between Irish and British.”

He was then asked if he was refusing to take sides between Scottish soldiers and Irish murderers.

The Glasgow Shettleston MSP responded: “You say Irish murderers. Others say Irish freedom fighters. I support Scottish soldiers if they do good but not if they do bad.”

After much pressure by campaigners Mr Mason eventually apologised, as did SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, on his behalf.

Kris McGurk, who is spearheading the justice campaign for the three soldiers, recently succeeded in having a motion brought before MSPs which calls on the Scottish government to press for security files on the murders to be released to his legal team for a civil action.

He wrote to his MSP, Mr Mason, asking him to sign the parliamentary motion; however he refused, describing Mr McGurk’s approach as “a bit one sided”.

“I recently saw the film ‘No Stone Unturned’ which told the story of six killings in Loughinisland in 1994 apparently by the UVF with collusion by the police and/or the British Army,” Mr Mason said.

“Again there has not been a court case and the victims’ families feel aggrieved.

“Overall I would be happy to support more of the truth from these times coming out and more justice being seen to be done. I would be happy to support a motion in Parliament along these lines. However, this particular motion appears to be a bit one sided as it focuses on victims on one side and does not mention victims on the other side. Therefore, I am not comfortable about supporting it.”

But Mr McGurk slammed his MSP’s response.

Speaking to the Belfast News Letter, a sister publication of The Scotsman, he said: “John Mason has again let himself, his constituents and his party down,” he said. “Comparing two separate and totally different shocking atrocities is one thing, but then down right refusing to support two Scottish families in their heartbreaking search for closure and truth is just a whole new level of unbelievable.

“How can this Scottish campaign, deeply affecting Scottish families, for the murder of Scottish soldiers and deeply in the interest of the Scottish public, be something a Scottish MSP refuses to support?

“It is this ignorance from people like John Mason that has, and is still, causing victims to wait decades to have closure and justice served.”

Tory MSP Maurice Corry, who is tabling the motion, said he hopes Mr Mason will reconsider his position.

“The motion is about getting the truth and justice for two Scottish families that were devastated by losing their loved ones during the Troubles. I hope Mr Mason will reconsider his position and give his support to my motion,” he said.

But an SNP spokesperson defended its MSP.

“John Mason has responded to Mr McGurk, making clear his support for reconciliation efforts between communities in Northern Ireland and efforts to deliver justice for victims and families affected by conflict,” he said.

“He has also invited Mr McGurk to meet with him to discuss the campaign.”