Politics

Former Sinn Fein Leader Faces Lawsuit From Victims of IRA Bombings

LONDON (AP) – Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams faces a lawsuit by three people who were wounded in bombings attributed to the Irish Republican Army that date back more than 50 years, a judge said Friday.

Adams can be sued as an individual but not as a representative of the IRA, Justice Michael Soole ruled. The judge also threw out a claim against the IRA, saying the group could not be sued because it was not a legal entity.

Adams is one of the most influential figures of Northern Ireland’s decades of conflict and led the IRA-linked party Sinn Fein between 1983 and 2018. He has always denied being an IRA member, though former colleagues have said he was one of its leaders.

8th March 1973: Police and emergency services amid the debris outside the Old Bailey, London, after a car bomb exploded. The Provisional IRA claimed responsibility. (Photo by Les Graves/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The three claimants are seeking to prove Adams was responsible for bombings in England during “the Troubles,” referring to three decades of violence involving Irish republican and British loyalist militants and U.K. soldiers. Some 3,600 people were killed – most in Northern Ireland, though the IRA also set off bombs in England.

The three claimants are John Clark, a victim of the 1973 Old Bailey courthouse bombing in London, Jonathan Ganesh, a 1996 London Docklands bombing victim, and Barry Laycock, a victim of the 1996 Arndale shopping center bombing in Manchester. They allege Adams was a leading member of the IRA during those events and was on its decision-making Army Council.

Adams “acted together with others” to “bomb the British mainland” and was “directly responsible” for decisions to place devices in 1973 and 1996, they said in court.

If they prevail, they are seeking only 1 pound ($1.27) “for vindicatory purposes.”

The case is likely to be the one of the final court efforts by victims of the Troubles to seek any type of justice in court after the controversial Legacy and Reconciliation Act set a cut off last May to file lawsuits.

Attorneys for the victims said this case – filed in 2022 – was the last to make it.

The judge ruled that Adams cannot recover his lawyers’ fees if he wins at trial, though he’d be on the hook for paying the victims’ legal costs if he loses.

Adams had challenged that protection to claimants in personal injury cases. The bombing victims had said the move was an effort to bully them into dropping the case.

“This is an unequivocal victory for all victims and survivors of IRA terrorism,” attorney Matthew Jury said. “Adams and his legal team’s apparent attempt to intimidate them into withdrawing their claims has rightly failed and their case will continue.”

Seamus Collins, a lawyer for Adams, told the BBC that they would address the legal costs in court next week.

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