UK High Court rules individuals injured in Northern Ireland Troubles can sue ex-Sinn Fein leader News
Elisa.rolle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UK High Court rules individuals injured in Northern Ireland Troubles can sue ex-Sinn Fein leader

A UK High Court judge ruled Friday that three individuals wounded during the Troubles, the 1968-1998 conflict between Northern Ireland Protestant unionists and Catholic Republicans, can proceed in personal injury claims against former Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams.

The three claimants were all injured during bombings attributed to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). John Clark was a victim of the Old Bailey bombing in March 1973, Jonathan Ganesh was a victim of the London Docklands bombing in February 1996, and Barry Laycock was a victim of the Arndale shopping centre bombing in Manchester in June 1996.

The trio began personal injury proceedings in May 2022, claiming damages of £1 for “vindicatory purposes.” The hearing on Friday was to determine whether such claims could be brought against PIRA directly, against Adams as a representative of PIRA, or against Adams personally. Adams was a prominent figure during the Troubles due to his involvement with the republican movement and subsequent peace negotiations. He previously led the Irish republican political party Sinn Fein, but Adams has always denied he was a member of the PIRA.

Justice Michael Soole of the High Court in London held that the claimants could only bring the claim against Adams in a personal capacity. They could not directly sue PIRA as it is an “unincorporated association” and therefore not a “legal entity” capable of being sued. In turn, they could not sue Adams as a representative of the PIRA. However, following this court ruling, personal proceedings against Adams can go ahead.

This claim was issued shortly before the introduction of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 under which a “relevant Troubles-related civil action” may not be brought. As this Act is not retrospective, this case was able to be brought to court. The act is currently the subject of an ECHR challenge brought by the Republic of Ireland, which argues that certain provisions of the bill granting immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences violate the European Convention on Human Rights.