McNeilly has posted a new report online revealing that he has been given a “dishonourable discharge” by the navy. He lost his job in order to protect the navy’s public image, he claims.
He attacks “military deceivers” and “spin doctors” for playing down his safety allegations. “You're being lied to about how safe and secure the nuclear weapons on your homeland are,” he tells the public.
McNeilly went absent without leave after a three-month patrol on the Trident submarine, HMS Victorious, earlier this year. The Sunday Herald revealed on 17 May that he had written an 18-page dossier describing Trident as “a disaster waiting to happen”.
He detailed 30 safety and security lapses, including failures testing whether missiles could be safely launched, burning toilet rolls starting a fire in a missile compartment, and security passes and bags going unchecked. Extracts from a top-secret safety manual he leaked disclosed that a design flaw in Trident missiles could result in fires, explosions and widespread radioactive contamination.
The navy labelled his allegations as “subjective and unsubstantiated” and launched an investigation into them. It concluded by dismissing his claims as “factually incorrect or the result of misunderstanding or partial understanding".
But now in a nine-page report McNeilly has angrily defended the accuracy of what he said. He refused the sign a document discrediting his allegations, he says. “It's only a matter of time before worse information comes out, and everything is proven to be true.”
McNeilly was backed by the SNP’s defence spokesman, Brendan O’Hara MP. “We should all be grateful that he was courageous enough to bring these matters to public attention - especially as he had nothing to gain personally and – as we see - so much to lose,” he said.
“The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has a culture of secrecy in areas of public concern and it is a disgrace that all too often the only way we get to hear about breaches in security and safety is when a courageous individual speaks out,” he added.
"We do not believe that the allegations have been anywhere near fully investigated and the MoD has attempted to sweep this under the carpet with a 420-word statement, which is completely unacceptable.”
John Ainslie, coordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, accused the MoD of a “callous” attitude to safety. “It is the Royal Navy which has acted dishonourably, not William McNeilly,” he said.
“They have blemished this man's record because he had the courage to expose serious weaknesses in the safety and security of Trident. When they interviewed him they were only interested in discrediting what he had published.”
Ainslie pointed out that McNeilly’s release was delayed because he refused to retract his claims about the dangers of Trident. “He should be commended for sticking to his principled position and not buckling under pressure from the top brass."
McNeilly, a 25-year-old naval recruit from Belfast, says all the charges against him have been dropped. He was discharged “on the claim that my sole aim was to discredit their public image,” he argues. “It is shocking that some people in a military force can be more concerned about public image than public safety.”
In another Facebook post yesterday he stressed his concerns that poor security could allow terrorists access to nuclear weapons. “It's literally harder to get to the careers office in Northern Ireland than it is to get down a nuclear submarine,” he says.
The Royal Navy pointed out that when individuals showed a willingness to breach trust, ignored opportunities to voice concerns through the chain of command and declared "beliefs incompatible with service employment”, their future employment had to be considered.
“We can confirm that Able Seaman McNeilly has left the naval service the details of which are a matter for the individual and his employer,” said a naval spokeswoman. "Throughout the process he was afforded the duty of care that we give all our personnel, as was his family.”