Theresa May has demanded police investigate fully the IRA for unsolved murders during the Troubles amid growing concern that British soldiers are being “persecuted”.
Mrs May’s intervention came as she pointed out “the majority” of victims of the conflict were killed by terrorists.
The Prime Minister also revealed that the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was looking at ways of ensuring all deaths were looked at equally in the future.
Her comments follow an uproar over the disclosure that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is re-examining the deaths of 302 people linked to the actions of British troops during the Troubles.
Two soldiers, both in their 60s, are being prosecuted for the murder of an Official IRA gunman in Belfast in 1972 while another veteran, Dennis Hutchings, 75, has been charged with attempted murder over the fatal shooting of a man 42 years ago.
Veterans will march on Downing Street on Saturday in protest at the prosecutions of ex-servicemen.
Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, asked Mrs May at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday if she would stop the “one-sided legal persecution of police officers and soldiers” in Northern Ireland.
Mrs May replied: “It is absolutely right that we recognise that the majority of people who lost their lives, lost their lives as a result of terrorist activity and it is important that that terrorist activity is looked into.”
She added that James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, “is looking at this legacy question and how that issue of investigations on all sides can take place in the future”.
An NIO spokesman said a potential Historical Investigation Unit would “investigate Troubles related deaths in ways that are fair, balanced and proportionate, recognising that 90 per cent of deaths were at the hands of terrorists”.
Jonny Mercer, a Conservative MP and former Army captain who is chairing a parliamentary inquiry into the welfare of troops under investigation, said: “I welcome the PM’s statement. It is shocking what has happened to British troops. They have been hounded.”
Mr Hutchings, currently facing trial, said there needed to be an independent inquiry into “an unfair process”.
The PSNI has insisted it is not looking disproportionately at British troops. “There is no new single probe or bespoke inquiry into deaths attributed to the British Army,” Asst Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, head of the PSNI’s legacy and justice department, said at the end of last year.