MINISTERS are drawing up plans to exempt all ex-servicemen from prosecution in Northern Ireland – in what would be a huge victory for The Sun.
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams yesterday claimed the Government was preparing to give an amnesty to nearly 1,000 veterans who served in the province.
A draft document would be inserted into a consultation document on potential ways to deal with the toxic legacy of the Troubles.
Mr Adams stormed that it was an “act of bad faith”.
But campaigning MPs said the Government was finally showing respect to soldiers who were being subjected to a disgraceful “witch hunt”.
Tory backbencher Richard Benyon told the Sun: “There are murderers walking free in Northern Ireland while old men who served their country well in impossible circumstances are dragged through the courts.
“If the Government delivers this no one would be happier than me.”
The MP – who served in Northern Ireland - added: “The troops went out every day in Northern Ireland to keep the peace and protect lives. The terrorists went out every day to kill and maim – but they are the ones pardoned by the Good Friday Agreement.”
The Sun last year revealed prosecutors were reopening investigations into all 302 killings by British troops during the 30 years of the Troubles.
More than 1,000 vets would be viewed as manslaughter or murder suspects in an enquiry led by a newly created Legacy Investigations Branch of Northern Ireland’s police service.
Furious opponents claim it was a politically motivated move by Sinn Fein sympathisers.
Theresa May and ex-Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon led attempts to stamp out the witch hunt.
But Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has infuriated Cabinet colleagues by pushing for any exemption to be scrapped – to avoid upsetting Sinn Fein.
Mr Benyon tabled a private members bill last month to try and protect troops by demanding no serviceman can be prosecuted 10 years after combat.
He cited the case of 78 year-old Dennis Hutchings – who is facing an attempted murder charge linked to the fatal shooting in 1974 of John Cunningham in County Armagh.
DUP MP Ian Paisley last night said the Government’s amnesty would be “fantastic news and another victory for common sense”.
A spokesman for Mr Brokenshire refused to comment on Mr Adams’ claims yesterday.
In a statement, the Northern Ireland Office said: "The consultation has not been launched at this stage, but the Government will be engaging with stakeholders in advance."
“We are obliged to move forward so that victims and survivors are able to get the progress they have been seeking for such a long time.”
The Irish Government last night said it would “not look favourably” on any amnesty measure in Northern Ireland.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin said: “The Government’s position is and will remain that the rule of law, including the requirement under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, for effective investigations of unlawful killings, must be upheld by all responsible authorities.”