Johnny Mercer has blasted Dennis Hutchings Ministry of Defence for refusing his coffin to be carried by soldiers at his Armistice Day funeral.
The Plymouth MP slammed military bosses for ‘dodging’ and ‘blaming commanding officers and ministers’ for blocking the request of the late Troubles veteran.
Mr Mercer, who supported Mr Hutchings during his trial in Belfast over a 1974 shooting, said he still cannot get top brass to commit to an answer.
It came as the family of the soldier who died yesterday pleaded for no political messages as they laid him to Rest next month.
They stated that they welcome all people and that flags are allowed, but no slogans, banners or speeches are required.
Mr Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, died aged 80 in Northern Ireland’s capital after contracting Covid-19 earlier this month.
His death prompted questions from unionist politicians about the decision to charge him almost 50-years later.
Dennis Hutchings’ friend and MP Johnny Mercer, pictured together in Belfast earlier in this month, slammed The Ministry of Defence for ‘blaming commandering officers and ministers’
Dennis Hutchings’ family has asked that people refrain from politicizing his funeral next month. Pictured right: Hutchings in dress uniform at Knightsbridge Barracks, 1978
During his trial in Belfast, supporters of Mr Hutchings gathered together outside Laganside Court.
Politicians and officials from the MoD have reacted with outrage to Mr Mercer’s failure to confirm that Mr Hutchings’ coffin could be carried by Soldiers from the Life Guards at Hutchings’ funeral on November 11.
He told MailOnline: ‘I still can’t get an answer as to whether Dennis’ family will get his wish.
‘Ministers claim it’s for Commanding Officials to decide; Commanding Offices then blame Ministers.
“It’s not difficult for someone to make an important decision, but it encapsulates how difficult it has been to ensure Dennis is taken care of.
‘Frankly, I’m getting tired of reading all those vexing letters and emails from retired Ministers and Military Officers who decry this man’s appalling treatment, but did nothing to help him when he was available, or are too afraid to speak up now.
“I have never understood our shame towards this generation. They are proud of me and the rest of the country. I am too.
Despite having kidney failure, Mr Hutchings was able to travel to Belfast this month for trial for attempted Murder.
He stated that he was determined for his innocence in the shooting of John Pat Cunningham, County Tyrone, almost 50 years ago.
Just days after the trial began, Mr Hutchings became ill. He died from Covid on October 18, despite his pleas for return to Cornwall.
Each regiment can decide whether or not it offers military funerals to retired soldiers.
The family of Mr Hutchings was told, however, that it couldn’t be accommodated because he wasn’t serving anymore.
John, John’s son, stated at the weekend that he only had one question for the Life Guards in the past six-and a half years. [since Mr Hutchings’ arrest]This is to have pallbearers wearing uniforms
“I was told that you must be a serving soldier, but he was in court to prove his service as a soldier. It’s bang out.
“He served 26-years in the Army and put his life at risk. The decision is really disappointing. The Life Guards were a hit with Dad.
Kim Devonshire, Mr Hutchings’ partner added: “He was on trial for Northern Ireland fighting for all the soldiers, so he was still serving.
“He represented more than 200 soldiers who could still face prosecution for their service in Northern Ireland.”
Major Derek Stratford was a Life Guards officer who served alongside Mr Hutchings. He said he contacted Life Guards Association on Friday in order to request pallbearers.
He said that he was told by his commanding officer that it could not be arranged in this particular day and time because it had been rejected.
The 88-year old added, “I think it oughta be and I’m disgusted that he can’t have.”
Pictured: Mr Hutchings being greeted at Belfast Crown Court by a supporter on October 4, 2009.
This photograph was taken in 1960 in Germany and shows Mr Hutchings at the far right.
Ben Wallace, a Scots Guards veteran, started a military row by appearing to support Mr Hutchings’ family.
Mr Wallace stated: “If he wishes pallbearers for his funeral, and the commanding officers is willing to release them from his duty, he has not been convicted of any crime.”
“I directed the actual event.” [MoD]To help bring his body home from Northern Ireland or to facilitate it.
Mr Hutchings’ family asked that everyone who wishes to attend the veteran’s funeral does not turn it into an event for political purposes.
They released a statement saying that Dennis’ family was aware of the interest shown by those who attended his funeral.
“The family is grateful for all the support over the years and look forward to welcoming everyone to Plymouth on November 11. All are welcome.
Flags are allowed, banners not. The family specifically asked that there be no political slogans or speeches on the day.
According to the MoD: “The MoD supported Mr Hutchings during his trial with legal representation, pastoral care, and continued to offer support to his family.”
The spokesperson added that they had not been approached to be pallbearers for the funeral. The Life Guards Association declined comment.
The funeral of Mr Hutchings will take place at St Andrew’s Church, Plymouth on November 11, which also happens to be Remembrance Day.