Criticism of Gerry Adams Supreme Court ruling by legal and political experts seem to have been vindicated

News Letter editorial of Wednesday December 29 2021:

By Editorial
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 6:06 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

For more than five years this newspaper has highlighted the use of the courts to demonise UK state responses to the terrorism of the Troubles.

This usage of the legal system to hound the security forces for alleged past wrongdoing is having the effect of retrospectively legitimising IRA terror.

And yet it goes on and on, despite a recent UK pledge to do something about it via a new approach to legacy that will seek to close down trials and other forms of inquiry.

Perhaps the most significant legal milestones in this scandal was an appalling, unanimous Supreme Court ruling last year, which found that the internment of the republican leader Gerry Adams in the 1970s was unlawful because it had not been signed by the then secretary of state William Whitelaw.

One of the only consolations to be taken from the judgement and its aftermath was the contempt with which it was met by highly respected legal, academic and political figures.

The ex Ireland rugby player and reconciliation activist Trevor Ringland wrote on these pages about “the many graves that [the] decision walked on”.

The London think tank Policy Exchange published the responses of experienced Whitehall figures to the ruling.

A professor of constitutional law at Oxford, Richard Ekins, and Sir Stephen Laws, who was in charge of drafting government legislation, were scathing about it.

A former attorney general for England and Wales, Geoffrey Cox QC, and a former head of the UK civil service, Lord Butler, called for emergency laws to make clear the internment was lawful.

And Lord Howell, who was a junior Northern Ireland Office minister in the 1970s, said Parliament had intended that junior ministers such as him could sign internment orders.

Now, thanks to a question from Baroness Hoey, it has emerged that the number of claims against the state for alleged wrongful internment 50 years ago may already be as high as 400, as a result of the Adams ruling.

The predictions of the experts about the implications of this judgement seem to be coming to pass.

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