Northern Ireland’s Crown Prosecution Service on Thursday confirmed its decision to charge a former British soldier with the murder of Patrick McVeigh, who was shot dead more than 50 years ago in May 1972. The soldier, known only as Soldier F, is also charged with attempting to kill four other people injured in the same incident.
The Troubles is the name given to the 30 years of sectarian violence that lasted in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1998. The violence was both political and religious, with sharp divisions between Protestant unionism and Catholic nationalism. The British Army was sent as a peacekeeping force in response to increasing violence by the Irish Provisional Republican Army. But those soldiers were later charged with killing unarmed civilians decades later. Many of these soldiers are now in old age and battling declining health.
Soldier F, along with three other soldiers, is also charged with attempted murder for the second shooting in May 1972.
The announcement follows a 10-year police investigation. Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Martin Hardy said all victims and families involved in the investigation had been informed of the decision to prosecute. Patrick McVeigh’s daughter told the BBC her father “someone should have been responsible for his murder”.
Both shootings involved a secret army unit called the Military Reaction Force, which operated in Belfast in the early 1970s. The unit operated for 18 months before being disbanded in 1973. In 2013, accusations that the unit was involved in the killing of unarmed civilians were made to local media by former members of the unit, leading to an official police investigation into these claims.
The decision to prosecute comes at a controversial time regarding heritage crime in Northern Ireland. In early 2023, Westminster central government passed legislation introducing amnesty for all future prosecutions relating to crimes committed during the unrest. As of May 1 this year, soldiers and civilians alike will no longer be able to be prosecuted for crimes committed during the 30-year period of violence.