This post originally appeared on Spinwatch on 16 November 2016.
In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, recent months have seen an increasingly chauvinistic tone in British politics. One aspect of this has been a concerted campaign against investigations of abuse by the Armed Forces. Conservative MPs have pressed Theresa May to curtail the activities of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, prompting the Prime Minister to warn of 'an industry of vexatious allegations coming forward' in comments to journalists in New York in September. May's conference speech, a key turning point in the post-Brexit political mood, featured the promise that "we will never again – in any future conflict – let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave – the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces." Her words were backed up by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) the with the announcement that it would seek a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in future conflicts.
The irony is that these moves come at the very moment when new evidence suggests that the spectre of ambulance-chasing lawyers running rings around the MOD is almost the direct opposite of the reality in past conflicts. New light is being shed on MOD practices in the early years of the Northern Ireland Troubles in a trickle of documents obtained by the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC). They show that rather than being dragged to the courts, the MOD was often anxious to go down the legal route, an avenue in which the balance of power was very different from the one portrayed in the media, leaving bereaved families to settle for derisory sums, a fraction of the MOD's own private estimate of what was warranted.