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MP: Families need legal aid if action allowed against Adams over IRA bombings

Jim Shannon called for legal aid for victims (House of Commons/PA)
Jim Shannon called for legal aid for victims (House of Commons/PA)

Families should be eligible for legal aid to take action against Gerry Adams if he is proven to have responsibility for three IRA bombings, MPs have heard.

The UK Government was pressed by DUP MP Jim Shannon (Strangford) to give such assurances after it emerged former Sinn Fein president Mr Adams has been given notice of legal action.

Three victims say they have filed a civil claim against Mr Adams for adjudication by the High Court in England.

Mr Adams has always denied that he was a member of the IRA.

Mr Shannon (Strangford), speaking as MPs considered the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, told the Commons: “You’ll be aware that there are the victims of three cases – the Old Bailey bombing of 1973, the Docklands bombing of 1996 and the Manchester bombing of 1996 – victims of those bombings are taking an action against Gerry Adams, the man who said he was never in the IRA but quite clearly he was.

“Can I ask if a civilian case – I know they’re doing it for a nominal claim of £1 – if it’s proven he is responsible as the commander of the IRA on those cases, will this Government then make available legal aid for people to take action primarily against him and against the IRA and those responsible at that time?

“If that information is there and if it’s proven, can this Bill make that happen? Will legal aid be available to those people to take the action against him?”

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns replied: “It would be inappropriate for me from the despatch box to comment on something that is or may be before the courts.

“He makes his point powerfully and he should address it to a law officer.”

Mr Shannon said: “The reason why I ask the question for Hansard is very simple – I understand this legislation today debars that from happening, and if that’s the case can the minister of state indicate to us whether those people have any chance of having justice for those people on those three occasions.”

A spokesman for Mr Adams – in response to the Mail on Sunday, which first reported details of the High Court claim – said: “Mr Adams rejects the claims made in the notice of legal action. His solicitor will deal with it.”

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