The IRA does not bear responsibility for the wrongful incarceration of the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six and others for republican terrorism, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said.
In the wake of the death of one of those wrongly jailed, Gerry Conlon, the republican leader said the burden of guilt for the miscarriages of justice rests absolutely with the British establishment.
Mr Conlon, 60, died in his home off the Falls Road in west Belfast on Saturday morning after an illness.
He spent 14 years in jail for the 1974 IRA bombing of the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford, Surrey, in which four soldiers and a civilian were killed and 65 people were injured – a crime he had nothing to do with.
His father Giuseppe, who was suffering from emphysema, was wrongly jailed for supposed bomb-making offences and died after five years behind bars.
Mr Adams said he had been in jail himself at the time they were imprisoned and it was believed an IRA unit known as the Balcombe Street gang had carried out the bombing.
The Sinn Fein leader rejected claims the IRA has any responsibility for miscarriages of justice linked to republican violence after former SDLP MP Seamus Mallon accused terror leaders of “almost conniving” with the British Government to keep innocent people behind bars.
“I wonder what their consciences tell them now,” Mr Mallon said.
Mr Adams dismissed the claim as political point-scoring: “The responsibility for the detention and incarceration of a range of people there, from the Guildford Four to the Birmingham Six and the Maguires, rests absolutely with the British establishment.
“The police there knew those individuals were not involved in those actions and there was a cover-up and that’s a matter of public record.”
In an interview on RTE Radio, Mr Adams said: “The IRA has to take responsibility for its own actions but let’s not have Seamus Mallon try to score political points.”
The Guildford Four convictions were overturned in 1989. Along with the Birmingham Six, it is considered the worst miscarriage of justice in Britain.
Mr Conlon’s funeral will take place at St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast on Saturday morning.