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Ex-Army peer criticises soldiers being 'dragged before the courts' 40 years on

A former Army officer has hit out at soldiers being "dragged before the courts" as Northern Ireland struggles to deal with its so-called "legacy" issues.

Tory Lord Robathan said soldiers had been sent to Northern Ireland to "protect the population" from terrorism and violence.

He urged ministers to impose the "legacy package" of the Stormont House agreement, leading to "more proportionate" legacy investigations.

Dealing with the legacy of unresolved killings during the conflict is one of the key issues polarising politics in Northern Ireland and leading to the snap election.

Northern Ireland minister Lord Dunlop said the current situation was "unsatisfactory, focusing disproportionately on the 10% of deaths caused by the police and armed forces, rather than the 90% caused by terrorists".

At question time, he said the Government was committed to implementing the legacy bodies proposed in the Stormont House agreement to ensure a "balanced, proportionate and fair approach to addressing Northern Ireland's past".

Lord Robathan, a former defence minister, said: "Successive governments over several decades sent soldiers, including myself, to Northern Ireland to protect the population, be they Catholic or Protestant, from terrorism and violence.

"Now some 40 years and more later old soldiers are being dragged before the courts although there is no new evidence against them."

Lord Dunlop said ministers remained "unstinting in our admiration and support for the police and the armed forces" - and want to build a consensus on the way forward in dealing with the past.

"I don't think it would be right to impose. We want to build that consensus and that's what we will focus on doing in the weeks ahead."

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