BORIS Johnson has sparked a backlash from Tory MPs after it emerged the smallprint of his deal to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland risks opening up new Troubles probes into thousands of veterans.
The Governments New Decade, New Approach agreement that persuaded warring Northern Irish parties to restore the Stormont executive for the first time in three years promised to deal address legacy issues within 100 days.
Boris Johnson faces backlash after it’s revealed his Northern Ireland power-sharing deal risks trouble for veterans
Senior Tories said this was totally contradictory to what the PM promised in his leadership campaign to end unjust prosecutions of Northern Ireland veterans.
The row comes as Mr Johnson visits Belfast today to mark the historic reopening of the Stormont Assembly.
He will hold talks with the First Minister Arlene Foster, of the DUP, and Deputy First Minister Michelle ONeill, of Sinn Fein, and will say he hopes the Province can finally benefit from reforms to public services.
But the PM is expected to face a grilling over exactly how much money the Government has committed to Northern Ireland as part of its successful efforts to restore power-sharing.
Last night Mr Johnson said: This is an historic time for the people of Northern Ireland. After three years, Stormont is open for business again with an Executive who can now move forward with improving peoples lives and delivering for all communities in Northern Ireland.
I look forward to meeting with the new Executive and hearing about their plans for the future – including driving forward much needed reforms to public services and resolving the current health strike.
The next decade will be an incredible time of opportunity for Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom as we come together to unleash the potential ofour four nations.
Former Armed Forces Ministers Mark Francois warned: It is a very good thing that the Northern Ireland executive has been re-established after three years and this will in no doubt be to the advantage of the people of Northern Ireland.
However, the Government promised in its manifesto to legislate to defend Veterans from malicious prosecutions and it would be completely unacceptable if the desire of NIO officials to re-establish the executive led to selling our veterans down the river in some Faustian pact.
We must defend those who defended us.”
Tory MPs said the fresh problem stems from the fundamental contradiction between the objective of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) to restore power-sharing and the priority of the Ministry of Defence to protect veterans.
A senior Tory said: The NIOs view is that the Stormont Agreement of 2014 would as part of its work review every fatality since 1969. That would go back and look at every dead – thats their concept – and it would be staffed by the PSNI.
The problem with that is it would take years and anyone who serves in Northern Ireland would have a sword of Damocles hanging over them.
It is totally contradictory to what the PM promised last year.
The MP warned Boris that backbench Tories will be making a fuss in the chamber as early as this week unless he gives them a reassurance that he will stick by his word to protect veterans from prosecution.
A No10 source insisted the deal struck with Northern Irish parties to restore power-sharing in no way undermines what was set out in the manifesto.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: Downing Street has promised to do something about this and they need to do something about it.
What we cant have until now is prosecutors going on a vexatious fishing expedition and arresting veterans and putting them through the mill.
If theyre going to legislate they need to in double quick time. It needs to make sure that either you have enough evidence to merit a court case or you leave it alone.
Iain Duncan Smith said ‘Downing Street has promised to do something about this and they need to do something about it’
A No10 source insisted the new deal ‘in no way undermines what was set out in the manifesto’