Irish government to appeal European court’s Hooded Men decision

The 'Hooded Men' pictured after a press conference earlier this year.'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
The 'Hooded Men' pictured after a press conference earlier this year.'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

The Irish Government is to appeal against a European court decision that found the UK did not torture the so-called Hooded Men during the Troubles.

The Hooded Men were 14 Catholics interned - detained indefinitely without trial - in 1971 who said they were subjected to a number of torture methods.

These included five techniques - hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water - along with beatings and death threats.

Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed Ireland’s request to find the men suffered torture and said there was “no justification” for revising an original judgment in 1978 that held that while the men suffered inhumane and degrading treatment, they were not tortured.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has confirmed it will appeal that ruling to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.

“The request for a referral will be submitted to the court in Strasbourg before the deadline of June 20,” a spokesman said.

The DFA spokesman added: “The March 20 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the Government’s application for a revision of the 1978 Ireland v UK case has been fully considered by the Government, taking account of advice from the Attorney General.

“The Government has decided to request a referral of the matter to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.”

The men were hooded and flown by helicopter to a secret location, later revealed to be a British Army camp at Ballykelly, outside Londonderry.

Kevin Hannaway, one of those interned, said: “Today’s ruling is not only a mammoth step for us, but for many other torture survivors all around the world.

“We always knew the judgment was flawed, and that we had strong grounds of appeal, we are delighted the Irish Government has accepted our submissions and an appeal will now be lodged.

“We all intend on fighting this case to the very end on behalf of ourselves and those who have passed away since the treatment we underwent.”

Mr Hannaway’s solicitor Darragh Mackin added: “We warmly welcome the position adopted by the Irish Government in today’s decision.

“From the day on which the judgment was handed down, we have engaged with the Irish Government in calling for an urgent appeal to be lodged.

“The international significance of this case is duly reflected by the fact that this case will now be referred to the highest court in Europe. The grounds were self-evident. We now look forward to an expeditious hearing in the Grand Chamber.”

The announcement comes the day after a daughter of one of the men, Mary McKenna, brought proceedings against the Irish state, pressing it to say if it intended to appeal the March finding.

Her late father, Sean McKenna, was one of the detainees.

She had sought a legal order compelling the Irish Government to urgently inform her if it intended to appeal the ECHR’s finding.

In 1978 the ECHR ruled that Sean McKenna and the other men had been subject to inhuman and degrading treatment - but not torture.

The Irish Government sought a revision of the original ruling which was turned down by the ECHR in March.

Her legal firm, Madden & Finucane, said that following this refusal there is was strict three month period in which Ireland may seek to refer this decision to the “Grand Chamber” of the ECHR which is composed of 17 judges as opposed to seven as in the previous hearing.

The firm lodged an application in the High Court yesterday to review the delay in the Irish Government in making its decision.

Michael Halleron from Madden & Finucane said: “I have received a call from the Department of Foreign Affairs to inform me that a decision has been made by the Irish Government to refer the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

“This is a significant decision. A referral to the Grand Chamber allows Ms. McKenna on behalf of her father, as well as the other applicants, another opportunity for the Judgement made in 1978 to be revised, insofar as the five techniques on persons interned in Northern Ireland in 1971 constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.”

In a statement released by the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Mary McKenna welcomed the news.

“I am absolutely delighted and relieved at this decision today as it is another step forward on the long road in order to get justice for my father, and for the other men who suffered such terrible mistreatment,” she said.

Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile also welcomed the news.

“This is a welcome announcement on the part of Government and I have no doubt that it will be received positively by the surviving Hooded Men and the families of those no longer with us,” he said.

In March UUP MLA and former RIR captain Doug Beattie chided Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson for rejecting the finding that the men had not been tortured.

“As a convicted IRA terrorist, Martina Anderson should certainly know a thing or two about ‘cruel techniques’ and ‘torture’.” he said.

He added: “The IRA was promoted, endorsed and justified by Sinn Fein for decades, and still is to this very day. Many people will now be asking if the Irish Government would be prepared to take such a stand for the victims of the IRA?”

Today he affirmed that the Irish government has every right to take the latest legal challenge and have the evidence reviewed.

“I just hope that the decision this time will put this matter to bed once and for all,” he added.