Gerry Adams appealing 1975 jail escape convictions

Interned Sinn Féin leader was on IRA talks delegation in London before re-arrest

Gerry Adams was among hundreds of republicans held without trial in Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Gerry Adams was among hundreds of republicans held without trial in Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has launched a legal bid to overturn two historical convictions for attempting to escape from prison.

Mr Adams has started appeal proceedings in Belfast over incidents which occurred while he was interned without trial in the Maze Prison in the 1970s.

The Sinn Féin president said he is appealing against convictions he received in 1975 in two separate Diplock Court trials – cases tried by a judge sitting without a jury – relating to two attempts to escape from internment.

“Following the recovery of a document by the Pat Finucane Centre in October 2009 from the British National Archives in London, I instructed my solicitor to begin proceedings to seek leave to appeal the 1975 convictions,” he added.

Mr Adams, a Sinn Féin TD for Louth, was among hundreds of republicans held without trial in Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles.

He has lodged papers with the Court of Appeal, with a hearing is due to take place in the Autumn. The Northern Ireland Court Service confirmed: “Gerard Adams is appealing against two convictions for attempting to escape from detention in the 1970s.”

Internment without trial for those suspected of being involved in violence was introduced in 1971 by Northern Ireland prime minister Brian Faulkner. Mr Adams was interned in March 1972, but was released in June that year to take part in a secret meeting in London with William Whitelaw, then Northern Ireland secretary of state.

Encounter

Those attending the meeting, including Robert Armstrong, the private secretary to prime minister Edward Heath and later Cabinet secretary under Margaret Thatcher, recorded the encounter as being with six leaders leaders of the IRA.

They included Sean MacStiofain, the then so-called chief-of-staff of the organisation, Daithi O Connail, a member of the so-called army council, Martin McGuinness, an IRA commander in Derry, and Mr Adams, who denies every being in the IRA. The others in the IRA delegation were Seamus Twomey (spelt Tuomey in Mr Armstrong’s note) and Ivor Bell.

The meeting, held at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of government minister Paul Channon, failed to procure a lasting ceasefire.

Mr Adams was rearrested in July 1973 at a Belfast house and interned at the Maze Prison, also known as Long Kesh internment camp.

On Christmas Eve 1973, he was one of three prisoners apprehended by warders while trying to cut their way through the perimeter fencing. In July 1974, according to Government files, he again attempted to escape by switching with a visitor at the Maze.

He was subsequently sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for attempting to escape.