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PM vows to end 'unfair' prosecution of veterans in Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister travelled to Belfast yesterday to welcome the new power-sharing deal that will see devolved government return to the Province for the first time in almost three years.

Boris Johnson has vowed to end the 'unfair prosecution' of military veterans amid warnings of a fresh witch-hunt against those who served in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister travelled to Belfast yesterday to welcome the new power-sharing deal that will see devolved government return to the Province for the first time in almost three years.

Under the deal, the Government has agreed to implement the new arrangements for dealing with so-called 'legacy issues' within 100 days – prompting fears that new investigations could get under way before Mr Johnson's manifesto pledge to prevent them is enacted.

PM vows to end 'unfair' prosecution of veterans in Northern Ireland

Mr Johnson said the deal struck by the DUP and Sinn Fein was a 'moment of hope' for Northern Ireland.

But he faced immediate warnings that the deal would revive the threat of 'vexatious' legal claims against former British soldiers who served during the Troubles.

The deal revives a cross-party agreement struck in 2014 that calls for the establishment of a 'Historical Investigations Unit' to look again at controversial cases from the Province's troubled history.

Mr Johnson insisted this could be 'balanced' with his election pledge to end vexatious claims against military veterans. 

He said those involved in reviving the power-sharing institutions had done 'a very good job of finding a balance between giving people who are in search of the truth the confidence they need but also who served our country in the armed services the confidence and certainty they need'.

The Prime Minister added: 'We will certainly be going forward with our manifesto commitment to ensure there are no further unfair prosecutions of people who served their country when there is no new evidence to be brought forward.'

But Whitehall sources acknowledged it would be difficult to square the commitments in the deal with the PM's pledge.

One said: 'No one is pretending this is easy – it isn't. We are fully aware we have two different commitments and we need to work our way through them.'

Former Tory cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith last night led calls to legislate immediately to protect veterans.

He said: 'What we can't have until now is prosecutors going on a vexatious fishing expedition and arresting veterans and putting them through the mill.

'If they're going to legislate they need to in double quick time. It needs to make sure that either you have enough evidence to merit a court case or you leave it alone.'