Legion letter is criticised

British Army soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Very, very few of the 300 security force killings could ever be described as murder, writes Jeff Dudgeon
British Army soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Very, very few of the 300 security force killings could ever be described as murder, writes Jeff Dudgeon

A military veteran has accused the Royal British Legion at a national level of ‘abandoning’ them after details emerged of a letter banning protest march participants in Northern Ireland from using RBL facilities.

The letter follows a number of marches held across Northern Ireland by Justice for Veterans UK (JFVUK) highlighting what it called the ongoing “vindictive” criminal investigations involving former British soldiers

A local UDR veteran said: “We were serving in the darkest days of the Troubles, our names have been vilified by certain political elements and there seems to be an imbalance in the investigation of terrorist murders as opposed to incidents involving members of the security forces.

“It should always be remembered security force members made life and death decisions in a split second while the terrorists we were combating were setting out to kill and maim in carefully planned attacks on us and innocent civilians,

“The letter from the Legion seems to be trying to distance itself from the very veterans it should be representing, I cannot help but feel they are abandoning us.”

Lurgan and Brownlow RBL Chairman Roberta McNally said she could not comment but if any RBL members or veterans wish to speak to her, she is prepared to make arrangements to meet them and pass their concerns to the Northern Ireland District Committee.

Anto Wickham of Justice for Veterans UK (JFVUK) said the RBL decision had provoked a “backlash” against the respected charity, but said he would do what he could to prevent a rift between the two groups.

The RBL in Northern Ireland wrote to its members to remind them of the RBL’s policy on a campaign it claims has “become highly politicised”.

The letter states: “Members are of course free to attend these parades in a personal capacity. However, this issue has become highly politicised and as a strictly non-partisan organisation, we would like to remind Legion members that under no circumstances should they participate in these parades/protests as representatives of the Legion or indicate Legion support for them in any way.

“We are also aware that some of these parades are intended to start outside Legion premises. Whilst the Legion cannot prevent parades from starting outside their premises we would be grateful if members could ensure that care is taken not to give any impression, particularly to any media representatives present, that these are Legion-supported events.”

Mr Wickham said he was “truly disappointed” at the RBL decision.

“I do know on social media there has been a backlash on the RBL from veterans and RBL members in NI and over the water. They are not happy at all with the RBL NI views of my group and a number have posted their views of disgust. A large number have stated that they will never go into a RBL club again or support them.

“I believe in the RBL and I know that they do a lot of work to help veterans and in many ways. I do not want this to turn out to be a fall out between my group and the RBL.”