Northern Ireland soldiers probe unfair, ex-commanding officer tells veterans

The investigation of soldiers over alleged wrongdoing during the Northern Ireland conflict is “unfair”, a former commanding officer said.

Sir Robert Pascoe led Operation Banner from 1985 to 1988.

He addressed a ceremony attended by scores of veterans commemorating loss of life during the British Army’s longest continuous deployment, from 1969 to 2005.

Sir Robert said: “We all know that the current process is unfair and we look to our politicians to sort it out without delay.”

He said soldiers had faced legal action, there had been public protests against historical investigations and “exaggerated” stories of bias against the army by PSNI detectives which were not borne out by the number of cases investigated.

He said with the appointment of veterans minister Johnny Mercer he hoped they could see a way out of the “distressing” situation.

He urged veterans to seek advice if they became involved.

Sir Robert added: “Many people have forgotten that troops were first deployed to protect members of the Catholic community in Londonderry, where intercommunal violence in the Bogside could not be contained by the overstretched Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

“Some people remember those early days, when tea and cakes were on offer.

“But the honeymoon period did not last long and we were soon engaged in a seemingly endless and bitter struggle against the IRA and their supporters.”

More than 20,000 soldiers were in Northern Ireland at the peak of the deployment.

The retired officer added: “It was our job to hold the ring to limit the attacks by the terrorists and sap their will to continue the fight, this you did.”

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