So two soldiers now face prosecution for the killing of then unarmed IRA man Joe McCann near his home near the edge of the Markets on 15 April 1972….
The defendants, known as Soldier A and Soldier C, are the surviving members of the Army patrol which shot Joe McCann. They are aged 65 and 67, and were in the Parachute Regiment.
They are from England, but are expected to appear in court in Northern Ireland in the next few months.
Interestingly, the prosecutions are on foot of the work of the ill-fated Historical Enquiries Team, a group now consigned to history by the Stormont House Agreement, and yet to be replaced by the proposed Historical Investigations Unit.
It somewhat gives the lie to the idea that there is any kind of amnesty for what’s often referred to as ex-combatants. That may have been a general corollary of the post-Troubles era, but in practice anyone can be subject to prosecution if the DPP thinks there’s enough reason.
This is a test case for other victims of the security forces. However, the state is not likely to let this go easily, or by default.
The UK may work hard to put forward a public interest case that McCann (suspected of several murders and attempted murders before his death) was killed in a legitimate state process of bringing civil order in the worst year of the Troubles.
However, a successful prosecution could open the flood gates for cases against other soldiers. And with the polite fiction of a de facto amnesty dispensed with, who knows where it’s likely to stop.