For the first thirty years of my life, Northern Ireland was ever present. Every night on the news would be more depressing stories of bombings, brutal sectarian killings, or British soldiers being shot and often killed themselves.
For younger generations, we still need to explain the background to this: decades of economic and social discrimination against the catholic minority led them, in the 1960s, to start a civil rights movement, which led to civil unrest between the communities. British soldiers were sent over to help keep the peace but then Irish republican nationalists started instead a terrorist war to re-unite Northern Ireland with the Republic.
When I was a child it seemed endless and without a solution. It was one of the numerous great achievements of Tony Blair’s government after 1997 to reach a peace deal that all sides could sign up to on Good Friday in 1998.
And let us not forget John Major’s government either, who started the peace process.
That peace deal is fragile and we are seeing how complicated it is at the moment as the current government struggles with the chaos of leaving the EU while simultaneously respecting the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
But there is another aspect of that history which is bothering me at present.
This week is Armed Forces Week. Chester is a proud army garrison town. The government currently wants to close the Dale Barracks, an idea I believe is daft. One reason I oppose it is because soldiers enjoy living in Chester and so stay longer in the army. It also means that when they leave the army, they stay here.
So, we have a large body of retired soldiers here, many of whom served with distinction in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
Yet the new Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland wants to open an investigation into every civilian death which involved a British soldier during that period of Troubles.
If there is actual evidence of a crime, it must be investigated. But numerous of my constituents are now living under a cloud of possible investigation for something that didn’t happen 30 or 40 years ago.
These blanket investigations are surely unacceptable. Serving in the British Army should be a matter of pride and honour. Not something to cause you to look over your shoulder with worry. A deal is a deal and it works both ways: we should respect the Good Friday Agreement but also respect the ex-soldiers in Chester.