SILENCING the bombs and bullets in Northern Ireland was always going to come at a price.

Having served there on three operational tours, I saw for myself how intractable the problem had become.

Only huge compromises would meet the demands of both sides of the sectarian divide and they came in the shape of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, negotiated by Tony Blair’s government.

One aspect, certainly, was kept secret because it only came to light recently when a court case against a suspected IRA bomber collapsed at the Old Bailey.

John Downey, who denied murdering four soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park atrocity, walked free because he had a letter from the government guaranteeing immunity from prosecution.

One of those soldiers killed was Anthony Daly, a colleague of mine.

After the case, it was further revealed that a further 186 so-called ‘comfort-letters’ were sent to IRA suspects between 2000 and 2012; all this without the knowledge of the public, Parliament or the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

It really does beggar belief and what grates is that, while these suspected terrorists are escaping justice, many former paratroopers continue to be pursued by the justice system for their role in the Bloody Sunday incident.

I am not saying for one minute that it’s acceptable for soldiers to shoot civilians, but in the heat of the moment even the most disciplined unit can over react. I appreciate that for those who have not experienced a full-blown riot, my argument might be hard to follow.

But the point I’m making is that if IRA suspects have been given keep-out-of-jail cards, so, too, should our former soldiers.

Justice, or the lack of it, must be equitable if we are truly to lay the ‘troubles’ to rest.