Outside the Houses of Parliament last weekend, Special Forces veteran Robin Horsfall delivered what has quickly been called the "best speech this country has heard for many a year" to fellow veterans of Operation BANNER (the Army's two-generation-long peacekeeping operation in Northern Ireland) and their supporters.
The video of the speech has to be heard (YouTube, Facebook) for its passion and the stentorian voice to be properly appreciated. He was reading out a letter, which readers are urged to read in full, regarding the betrayal of ex-servicemen by Her Majesty's Government now that the Government is prosecuting them for incidents which occurred during their tours of duty in Northern Ireland.
At the end of his reading, which was greeted intermittently with hearty applause, Mr Horsfall made these extempore remarks before marching with his comrades down to Downing Street to deliver the letter to the Prime Minister, becoming understandably irate as he did so:
I have here some sample responses from our MPs. Some are supportive, but most are copies that repeat the words, "Ninety per cent of the victims of the Troubles were as a consequence of terrorist activities." So who carried out the other ten per cent? Because I'm telling you: we certainly didn't!
What happens when a soldier hesitates to defend himself? Well, let me remind you of Corporals Wood and Howes, March 1988. Dragged from their car by a mob, they didn't use their weapons; they hesitated. And as a consequence, on camera, they were dragged and murdered, beaten to death, by a Republican mob in Andersonstown [West Belfast]. That's what happens when soldiers are not allowed to decide whether it's time to pull the trigger or not.
There's a foul smell that emanates from those letters. And there's a foul smell that emanates from that House [of Commons] over there. It's the smell of fear. It's the smell of cowardice. It's the smell of betrayal. They [MPs] are betraying us because they don't care. We defended you! Now it's your turn to defend us. Stop the funding [of prosecutions of veterans]. Sack the [Northern Ireland] Director of Public Prosecutions. And save our troops.
If you can't defend your army, then you don't deserve to have an army.
Today is just the beginning. When you [men] go home today, get prepared to come back. And every one of you should be looking for ten comrades, ten friends, ten former soldiers or ten supporters to come back, so that next time we're not a thousand, we're ten thousand, we're fifteen thousand. Because this is just the beginning.
If our government can't defend us, the time may come when we need to defend ourselves.
Many excellent points are made here which reach to the heart of the Constitution, the Military Covenant (the Crown's and HM Government's obligation to look after servicemen who risk their lives for that Government) and the deliberate demoralisation and brand destruction of HM Armed Forces as a preparatory step for EU military union (especially in terms of dissuading the current generation of teenagers from enlisting in the British Armed Forces).
Perhaps the most pressing matter arising is this, and it is the one that seems to be exercising Mr Horsfall the most in the aftermath of his speech. Who is writing the identical copy for MPs, with its weasel words implying that the Army murdered 350 people in Northern Ireland? Is the united party machinery of all four Establishment parties (LibLabConNat, we might call the beast nowadays, given the SNP's establishmentisation and even that of Sinn Féin) providing the boilerplate? David Ellis' repeated observation that MPs are petrified of voicing their own convictions on military issues proves to be vindicated once again here.
There is also the worrying aspect of the blanket of media silence cast over the veterans. Mr Horsfall noted yesterday regarding the popularity of the video of his speech:
Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans. 180,000 views in 24 hours, not one TV interview. Why?
What an apt question. (The views on Facebook alone have now surpassed 230,000 and are likely to exceed a quarter of a million later today.) In fact, veterans have been on show in Westminster for months already since Northern Ireland veterans began to be prosecuted. I believe I am right in saying that no national mainstream media have shown any interest in any of their public protests, but stand corrected if that is not the case.
The partiality of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory QC, is a matter which Mr Horsfall and his comrades rightly draw attention to. As the Daily Mail reported last year, McGrory, who now makes ultimate decisions on which ex-servicemen to prosecute for their service record in Northern Ireland, has been the lawyer for both of Sinn Féin/IRA's most notorious leaders, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, in extremely high-profile proceedings.
It is not just the fragile and contrived post-1998 Northern Irish political establishment (now creaking at the seams under the weight of its own internal contradictions and fictions) which is persecuting the men who kept the peace there. The old spectre of sneaking support for Sinn Féin/IRA in parts of the Scottish National Party, particularly in Greater Glasgow (where Loyalism and Irish Republicanism are both as live as they are in Northern Ireland), has reared its head again.
John Mason MSP tweeted this week, to none other than David Scott, the old canard that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The question David Scott had put to this supposedly committed Christian parliamentarian was whether he would support the quest to bring to justice the murderers of the young men simply known as the Three Scottish Soldiers, one of the most heinous atrocities of 1971 in the early days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. (The murderers live at known addresses in the Republic of Ireland.) Mr Mason masked his sentiments slightly in his response by ascribing the "Irish freedom fighters" label to unspecified others rather than to himself.
However, the equivocation is shocking, the more so when one considers that Mason's constituency of Shettleston is one of the most historically anti-Irish Republican in Scotland and that so many young men from that part of the East End of Glasgow served, and even died, in Northern Ireland as soldiers. Mason's refusal, in his own words in that Twitter exchange, to "take sides between Irish and British" has driven him to insult his own constituency and to commit political suicide.
Mason's astonishingly dogged remarks have made the Scotsman and rightly drawn the ire of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. I do hope that David Scott's persistence on Twitter in this and many other matters in the public interest will inspire a great number of UK Column readers to be civilly and unyieldingly active on social media and in correspondence with public figures; it really does yield results when one gets good at it.
A read of the disgusted responses to Mason's tweet is a very instructive experience. It was not long before someone pointed out in that thread that a teacher, also from Greater Glasgow, was dismissed from employment and prosecuted at Paisley Sheriff Court not long ago for advocating explicitly for the IRA, and that she had previously posed beamingly for a selfie with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. That was just one of 282 replies (at the last count) to Mason's fairly clear expression of support for the murder of three young Scots in uniform who were lured out of a bar and brutally finished off on a hillside (the gory details of which Mason most surely knows, as Glasgow was all abuzz with the case when it happened, and he was a bright grammar school pupil of fourteen in Glasgow at the time). Other teachers in the Glasgow area have been reprimanded for making untoward comments about the IRA even after that dismissal.
If a state school teacher (a public servant) can be dismissed from her post for the moral failure and criminal offence of glorifying Marxist terrorists, why cannot a parliamentarian (who is likewise a public servant)? Recall would seem to be the right course of action in response to Mason's remarks. A large part of the problem is the media silence, just as seen also in the matter of Mr Horsfall and his comrades. While the local paper for the sacked teacher's part of Glasgow reported the case soberly and a Scotland-wide tabloid, the Daily Record, did pick up on it, the Record made no mention of the teacher's closeness to the SNP. In fact, journalists simply cut Nicola Sturgeon out of the selfie and used that very shot of Anne Marie Clements to illustrate the article, with no mention made of the fact that she had been posing with the First Minister in that picture. Who at the Record wanted to protect the SNP's reputation in this matter?
One could multiply examples of how even the Westminster establishment is in on this surreptitious support for the enemies of Her Majesty's Armed Forces: for example, the case of lawyer Phil Shiner (a man close to seniors in the Labour Party) and the large amounts of public money he allegedly improperly obtained to prosecute troops for their service in Iraq, or indeed the fact that the headquarters for the Ministry of Defence's "Iraq Historic Allegations Team" is at the same former RAF base in Cornwall where the French military now flies drones as part of the encroaching EU military union. Even the Conservative MPs and peers who have been vocal over decades in their support of the Armed Forces, such as Sir Gerald Howarth, Steve Baker and perhaps even the esteemed Lord Tebbit (all ex-airmen and/or ex-pilots), have questions to answer about what they have not spoken about publicly as regards the destruction of the British military.
Even in an age when we have a plethora of military advocacy groups and military-supporting charities, precious little detail of the above matters reaches the mainstream. The UK Column appears to be one of vanishingly few media organisations which owes no hidden loyalties to opponents of Her Majesty's Armed Forces or to advocates of EU military union.