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Friday, 28 January, 2000, 16:52 GMT
Nuclear test veterans lose legal battle

Ken McGinley Ken McGinley has been campaigning since 1982


Veterans of British nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1950s have lost their latest effort to establish whether their human rights were violated by the government of the day.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg refused to reopen the case of two men who claimed the tests triggered health problems from radiation.

About 12,000 servicemen witnessed nuclear tests on Christmas Island - in what is now the Republic of Kiribati - during the 1950s. About 3,000 are still alive.



The British government were well aware of the dangers of radiation but they never protected us
Ken McGinley
Ken McGinley, a 61-year-old former Royal Engineer from Renfrewshire, and 60-year-old former Navy sailor Edward Egan, from Glasgow, were the two members of the British Association of Nuclear Test Veterans who applied to the European court.

The veterans stood to receive thousands of pounds in compensation if the case was proven.

Mr McGinley, national chairman of the association, developed serious illnesses including cancer following the tests.

After Friday's ruling he said: "I was only 19 years of age when we were told we were going to the other end of the world to a tropical island for a year.

"It was 1957 and the furthest we had been before was Blackpool so you jump at something like that.

"We were told there was going to be a bomb test and all they gave us was white overalls, we were never told anything about the dangers of radiation.


Edward Egan Edward Egan: We were just guinea pigs
"There were four tests after that and for those we didn't even get the white suits.

"The British government were well aware of the dangers of radiation but they never protected us."

Mr Egan, who has suffered lung problems since the tests, said he was "disappointed" with the decision.

"They have turned us down again, but to me they are guilty and other countries have paid their troops for the damage that was done to them.

"I had to stop work when I was only 42 because of ill health and I have lost all that.


Christmas Island Christmas Island was a popular site for nuclear testing
"When they tested the bomb we were only 20 miles away on the upper deck of the ship.

"They gave us a white suit but it wouldn't have protected us.

"It would have been fair enough if we had been in a war and this happened but it wasn't, we were just used as guinea pigs."

Mr McGinley, who began his campaign in 1982, said before the verdict that even if the case was lost the fight for recognition would continue.

The Ministry of Defence has granted pensions to ex-servicemen and widows, but will not admit liability.

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See also:
09 Jun 98 |  UK
Ex-servicemen lose nuclear case
09 Jun 98 |  UK
Nuclear veterans' court hope
09 Jun 98 |  UK
'We're not beaten' say N-test veterans

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