Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is waiting to see if he has won the first round of a High Court damages fight with three victims of bombings on the UK mainland.
They are: John Clark, a victim of the Old Bailey bombing in London in March 1973; Jonathan Ganesh, a victim of the London Docklands bombing in February 1996; and Barry Laycock, a victim of the Arndale shopping centre bombing in Manchester in June 1996.
They have sued Mr Adams and the Provisional IRA and want “nominal” damages of £1.
He has asked a High Court judge in London to strike out their claim against the Provisional IRA.
Lawyers representing him argued, at a preliminary High Court hearing in London on Tuesday, that the Provisional IRA was an “unincorporated association” which was “incapable in law of being sued”.
A barrister for the three victims disagreed and told Mr Justice Soole that Mr Adams was seeking to “close down any public hearing in which his membership” of the Provisional IRA “might be evidenced”.
Mr Justice Soole said he would deliver a ruling on a date to be fixed.
Richard Hermer KC, leading Mr Adams’s legal team, described the case as “unusual”.
He said the conduct of the claims had been “characterised by a significant number of procedural breaches and irregularities”, and the timing of the claims was “designed to circumvent pending legislation” which would prohibit such a claim from being brought.
Mr Hermer told the judge nothing he said on behalf of Mr Adams was intended to “deny or minimise” the claimants’ experiences or suffering.
He said in a written case outline: “(Mr Adams) is conscious that the claimants have suffered significantly as a result of bombings in 1973 and 1996 in which they were innocent victims.”
Mr Hermer did not argue that entire claims against Mr Adams should be struck out – only “representative” aspects of claims.
Anne Studd KC, leading the claimants’ legal team, said each man alleged Mr Adams was “liable to them” both as an “individual, given the part he played in the preparation and planning of the attacks”, and as a “representative” of the Provisional IRA.
“The effect of (Mr Adams’s) application is to seek to close down any public hearing in which his membership of the Provisional Irish Republican Army might be evidenced and established,” Ms Studd told Mr Justice Soole, in a written case outline.
“Such a course should not be endorsed by the courts.”
She argued that the claim against the Provisional IRA should be allowed to progress and added: “There is a public interest in having these issues ventilated.
“These are issues which have caused the public, and my clients in particular, real concern.”
Ms Studd said there was a “considerable” public interest in letting the three victims try to demonstrate that Mr Adams should be regarded as a “representative” of the Provisional IRA.