Gerry Adams refused internment compensation following changes to the Legacy Bill

The House of Lords has passed several amendments to the Northern Ireland Issue (the Inheritance and Reconciliation Bill) that would have prevented a number of former republican prisoners, including former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, from seeking compensation for internment without trial in the 1970s.

The government has said that up to 400 compensation claims could be brought as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in 2020 that certain detentions were illegal, due to what ministers have called “technical”.

To stop these claims in their tracks, legal clarifications were put into the law that would retrospectively validate these so-called temporary restraining orders.

Former DUP deputy leader Lord Dodds of Duncairn told colleagues: “People in Northern Ireland will breathe a sigh of relief in all communities and all parties, except Sinn Fein of course, at the prospect of the godfather of terrorism for decades, Gerry Adams, personally technically, would not be able to benefit from the size of the British taxpayer when so many widows and families, by the thousands, that he and his organization caused such suffering, many of whom have struggled for years with little compensation or remuneration.

“That injustice will be upheld in this House and in this Parliament and will be warmly welcomed by those who truly believe in true justice.”

The amendments came after Adams won an appeal against historical convictions for two attempted prison breaks, after he was held without trial in 1973 at the Long Kesh internment camp, also known as Prison Maze.

The Supreme Court ruled that his detention was unlawful because the temporary restraining order used to detain him was not initially “considered personally” by then Northern Ireland Secretary of State Willie Whitelaw.

This is despite an old convention, known as the Carltona principle, under which officers and junior ministers routinely acted on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Northern Ireland’s Office Minister Lord Caine said the amendments were presented because of “widespread concern” over the decision.

He said: “The government has always understood that the temporary restraining order made by the crown minister under the powers conferred on the Secretary of State is absolutely valid.

“To restore clarity around the legal position and ensure no one is unduly advantaged by a different interpretation of the law, technically speaking, I have submitted an amendment that retrospectively validates all provisional restraining orders. [made under relevant legislation].

“This has the effect of confirming that the detention of a person under a provisional restraining order is not unlawful simply because it was made by a junior minister, not by the Secretary of State personally, as subsequent administrations have always understood.”

The amendments prohibit civil cases, requests for compensation as a result of judicial failures and appeals against judgments that rely on the 2020 decision to carry over or proceed.

The inheritance bill will now be sent back to the House of Commons for consideration in a process known as a parliamentary ping-pong after peers remove core parts of the bill.

Partners voted to remove the provision that would have granted immunity to people accused of crimes related to the Matter if they cooperated with a new truth restoration agency known as the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Restoration of Information (ICRIR).

The bill has been heavily criticized by the republican party and unions in Northern Ireland, as well as victims’ groups and the Irish government.

When the amended bill was passed in the upper house, Lord Caine acknowledged that it had not received the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly – as they are not currently seated – or the Scottish Government.

He said: “Therefore, unfortunately we are proceeding without approval as this legislation requires a UK-wide approach.

“As Government we have to make difficult and realistic decisions about how best to provide the best for families in Northern Ireland and I can assure you that the Government will continue to engage with all parties in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Government in this way.”

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