Gerry Adams loses appeal over IRA prison breakout convictions

Retired Sinn Féin president was convicted over two attempts to escape internment in 1970s

Gerry Adams has lost his appeal against convictions over an IRA prison breakout in the 1970s.

The retired Sinn Féin president was among four detainees intercepted by prison officers as they tried to cut their way through perimeter fencing at the Maze/Long Kesh prison on Christmas Eve in 1973.

He was also convicted over a July 1974 plot by the IRA to kidnap a man who looked like him, dye his hair, put a false beard on him and then switch the two inside the prison.

Adams’s legal team had tried to overturn both convictions.

Adams was among hundreds of men interned without trial in 1972 during a highly controversial British government security crackdown at the start of the Troubles.

He was released from Long Kesh to attend talks in London with the then Northern Ireland secretary, William Whitelaw.

The discussions broke down, which led to an escalation of IRA violence that summer and Adams was re-arrested in west Belfast and jailed again.

His legal team argued last month that the two convictions were unlawful because the Northern Ireland secretary at the time did not personally authorise them.

Judges at the court of appeal in Belfast ruled on Wednesday that another junior minister had legal powers to sign the court order for Adams’s detention. “Accordingly the court is satisfied that the convictions are safe,” one of the judges, Sir Ronald Weatherup, said.

Internment without trial was heavily criticised across the world, but did not end until 1975. By then nearly 2,000 people had been detained under the measure, the vast majority of them republicans and Catholic civilians uninvolved in politics.

A number of former internees, known as the Hooded Men, have taken a high-profile legal case against the British state, seeking compensation for alleged torture by army and police officers during their detention.


Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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