The Memo: Three Provisional IRA victims in England can sue Gerry Adams in personal capacity, judge rules

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Three Provisional IRA victims in England can sue Gerry Adams in personal capacity, judge rules

Tyler Rigby – 29 January 2024

A High Court judge has ruled that three victims of bombings by the Provisional Irish Republican Army can sue former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in a personal capacity, however, they cannot sue him as a representative of the PIRA or sue the group themselves. This comes in the wake of the UK’s soon-to-be implemented controversial Legacy Act which serves to limit prosecutions of those involved in violence related to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The act allows for protection from prosecution for those that cooperate with the new independent commission, and it would also prevent future inquests and civil actions related to the Troubles.

This may very well be one of the last Troubles-related cases that will get a day in court before the Legacy Act comes into effect. John Clark, a victim of the 1973 Old Bailey bombing; Barry Laycock, a victim of the 1996 Manchester Arndale bombing; and Jonathan Ganesh a victim of the London Docklands bombing (also in 1996), were told that they could not sue Adams as a direct affiliate of the group, as he has always denied ever being a member of the PIRA. To legally state Adams’ connections with the group would have to be proven at trial, not to mention the fact that the PIRA was deemed not to be a legal entity - making it impossible to sue in its own name.

As a result, Adams can only be personally sued for damages, with the court also ruling that the victims will have their costs protected and not be liable to pay Adams fees if the ruling goes his way (his fees could be up to £120,000). The victims of the bombing allege Adams was directly involved in the decision-making around when and where the PIRA would place bombs on the British mainland (Adams was president of Sinn Féin during the latter two bombings from 1983 to 2018). As victims from all sides of the conflict mount legal action against the UK government for the Legacy Act, all eyes will be on how this case develops.