Joe McCann: Reaction to soldiers' trial collapse

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Joe McCann was shot near his home in the Markets area of Belfast in April 1972

The acquittal of two former paratroopers accused of the murder of an Official IRA man has provoked contrasting reactions from across the political divide in Northern Ireland.

Joe McCann, 24, was shot in disputed circumstances at Joy Street in the Markets area of Belfast in April 1972.

Former soldiers A and C, both in their 70s, had pleaded not guilty.

They admitted firing shots but said they had acted lawfully when doing so.

The soldiers' trial collapsed on Tuesday and they were acquitted.

Gavin Robinson, DUP MP

"It appears remarkable that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) were prepared to let this case proceed on evidence which they should have known would be inadmissible.

"In the determination to put these veterans on trial it seems little thought was given to proper justice.

"It is a very clear example of the disparity of treatment between former members of our Armed Forces and those accused of terrorist offences."

Linda Dillon, Sinn Féin MLA

"I... share the family's concerns at the way in which the investigation was conducted and the failure of the PSNI to interview the soldiers charged after the case was referred to them.

"We will continue to support the family as they discuss their next move in their campaign for truth and justice.

"This ruling highlights the need for the implementation of already agreed mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the past in a human rights compliant manner."

Dolores Kelly, SDLP MLA

"The historic failure to caution soldiers prior to taking statements was bad enough but the PSNI's failure to open a fresh investigation and interview the individuals under caution after a HET re-examination in 2010 is totally inexplicable.

"There are also serious questions for the PPS about why a decision to prosecute without statements taken under caution was deemed appropriate.

"I am seeking an urgent meeting with the director of public prosecutions to discuss this issue, and other matters of concern."

Doug Beattie UUP MLA

"Due process has been applied in this case and these men are now free to carry on with their lives.

"The PPS needs to explain how and why these men were put through this trial and what implications the collapse of this case due to lack of admissible evidence will have on other legacy cases, particularly those involving former soldiers.

"At the time of his death the IRA said that Joe McCann was responsible for the murders of 15 soldiers.

"He was a ruthless and dedicated terrorist. My thoughts today are with all innocent victims."

Johnny Mercer, former veterans minister

"The government has made very clear promises, and the prime minister has made very clear promises, on legislation to end the relentless pursuit of those who served their country in Northern Ireland.

"It is time to deliver on that."