Ireland: Decision to reopen “Hooded Men” court case triumph of justice after four decades of waiting

The Irish Government’s request to reopen the landmark 1978 European Court of Human Rights judgment in Ireland v UK is a triumph of justice, after more than 40 years of waiting, said Amnesty International today. It follows revelations in a television programme, The Torture Files, broadcast on an Irish national channel in June that the UK withheld vital information from the European Court at the time. 

In 1978 the European Court ruled that the treatment of 14 so-called ‘hooded men’, who were interned in Northern Ireland in 1971, constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.  Amnesty International – and clearly Ireland – now considers that the withheld evidence could possibly have led to a finding that the men were tortured. 

Today the Irish High Court was to have heard the men’s application seeking to compel the Irish Government to decide on requesting the European Court to reopen the 1978 judgement. However, Counsel for the state told the Court the Government had already decided to seek a reopening of Ireland v UK.   

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: 

“Today’s decision by the Irish Government is hugely welcomed by Amnesty International. We commend Ireland for helping these men, and the families of those who have since died, to finally have their right to truth and justice vindicated for what we now know happened to them in 1971. The UK withheld from the European Court what it knew about the terrible suffering deliberately inflicted on them and its being sanctioned at the highest levels of the UK Government. Ireland’s decision today bravely flies the flag for human rights and the universal and unconditional prohibition of torture.” 

Speaking from the High Court today on behalf of the ‘hooded men’, Liam Shannon, one of the ‘hooded men’, said: “We’ve just been told about the decision to take the case to Europe. We’re absolutely delighted by this. We’ve waited 43 years and we want to thank everyone involved, our legal team and all the researchers who turned up the relevant information in order that we could make a case.” 

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, also said: “The then Irish Government took a brave and unprecedented step when bringing the case against the UK back in 1971 – today’s Irish Government has remained true to that pursuit of justice. Ireland is to be commended for playing its role in ensuring the UK is finally held responsible for what it did to these men in those interrogation rooms 43 years ago.” 

“We hope the UK Government now announces without further delay the establishment of an independent investigation into what was revealed in the RTÉ programme.” 

“We earnestly hope there will be no suggestion that Ireland’s decision may undermine the wider Northern Ireland peace process. As we have repeatedly communicated to the Irish Government, there can be no stable and lasting peace in Northern Ireland without truth and justice, including in this case.”