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British judge rules Provisional IRA cannot be sued

The Provisional IRA cannot be sued for compensation by bombing victims, but legal action against former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will continue, a UK High Court judge has said.

Three men injured by bombings in the UK during the 1970s and 1990s wanted to bring claims against the PIRA and Mr Adams as its “representative”, for just £1 in damages for “vindicatory purposes”.

John Clark, a victim of the 1973 Old Bailey bombing in London, Jonathan Ganesh, a 1996 London Docklands bombing victim, and Barry Laycock, a victim of the 1996 Arndale shopping centre bombing in Manchester, all allege that Mr Adams was a leading member of the PIRA on those dates, including of its Army Council.

At a hearing in London in November, Gerry Adams, who denies the allegations, asked a judge to throw out the claims against the PIRA and against him as a representative of the organisation

They claim that Mr Adams “acted together with others in furtherance of a common design to bomb the British mainland” and was “directly responsible” in various roles within the PIRA for decisions made to place devices in 1973 and 1996.

At a hearing in London in November, Mr Adams, who denies the allegations, asked a judge to throw out the claims against the PIRA and against him as a representative of the organisation.

In a ruling today, Mr Justice Soole concluded that the legal action against the PIRA must be “struck out” because it was “an unincorporated association” and “not a legal entity” that could be sued.

The judge also said the three bombing victims could not sue Mr Adams as a “representative” of PIRA, but claims against him in a personal capacity will continue.

Allegations that Mr Adams was one of PIRA’s “leaders” was an issue to be determined at a trial, Mr Justice Soole said.

Lawyers for the three bombing victims had argued that Mr Adams should be considered a representative of a class of people who “were members of the PIRA/its Army Council between 1973 and 1996”.

However, Mr Justice Soole, while noting the difficulties in bringing cases relating to a “secretive proscribed organisation”, said the bombing victims’ legal team had failed to identify “a coherent class of defendants with ‘the same interest”‘.

At the hearing in November, Anne Studd KC, representing the three men, said Mr Adams was seeking to “close down any public hearing in which his membership” of the PIRA “might be evidenced and established”.

The claim against the Provisional IRA should be allowed to progress because there was “a public interest in having these issues ventilated”, she said.

Richard Hermer KC, for Mr Adams, said the PIRA was “incapable in law of being sued” and that the “representative” aspects of claims should be struck out.

The barrister told the judge nothing he said on behalf of Mr Adams was intended to “deny or minimise” the claimants’ experiences or suffering.


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