Northern Ireland

Hooded Men call for British PM Rishi Sunak to apologise

Hooded Men Jim Auld and Liam Shannon talk. Picture by Hugh Russell
Hooded Men Jim Auld and Liam Shannon. Picture by Hugh Russell

Two members of the group known as the Hooded Men have called on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to apologise for their treatment more than 50 years ago.

Jim Auld and Liam Shannon are among a group of 14 Catholic men subjected to what many regard as state-sanctioned torture when they were held without charge during internment in 1971.

The ‘five techniques’ used against the 14 men included being hooded, made to stand in stress positions, forced to listen to loud static noise and being deprived of sleep, food and water.

In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the methods used “would be characterised today” as torture.

It also concluded that the PSNI was wrong not to investigate allegations of torture in the case.

Last year the PSNI apologised to the men for their treatment more than 50 years ago.

Mr Auld later branded the move a “cynical exercise” and raised concerns that the Hooded Men case is swept up by the British government’s controversial legacy legislation, which effectively ends Troubles investigations.

Modest settlements were agreed with members of the Hooded Men group in the mid 70′s.

However, in 2018 Mr Auld and Shannon issued fresh writs and made an application for the original settlements to be set aside.

Lawyers for the men say that both the PSNI and Ministry of Defence (MoD) are challenging the men’s attempt to agree a fresh settlement.

A hearing is due to take place at the High Court in Belfast next week.

Mr Shannon confirmed he has written to the PSNI asking the force to explain what they have apologised for.

“The letter they sent was for actions and omissions, what does that mean?” he asked.

His solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, voiced concerns about the state position.

“It does not make sense that an agency of the state has apologised for this and are then opposing an application for compensation, where is the logic in this?’ he asked.

Mr Auld also called on the Irish government to bring the case of the Hooded Men back to Europe over fears that other nations have continued to use the techniques first developed on him and the other Hooded Men.

In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights held the treatment of the Hooded Men was inhuman and degrading, but fell short of torture.

In 2018 the court rejected an appeal by the Irish government against a ruling that they were not tortured.

In the past some of the Hooded Men have expressed concern that the failure to reverse the 1978 ruling resulted in the use of similar techniques elsewhere.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts a Business Council meeting at 10 Downing Street
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Daniel Leal/PA)

Mr Winters said the British government has previously issued apologies in relation to the loyalist murder of solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 and the killing of 14 innocent Catholic men in Derry during Bloody Sunday in 1972.

“We are saying the same should happen here,” he added.

When contacted a spokesman for No 10 Downing Street referred the Irish News to the MoD.

An MoD representative later issued a statement on behalf of a “UK government spokesperson”.

We acknowledge the pain and suffering felt by so many during the Troubles,” the statement said.

“There are several ongoing legal proceedings in relation to this incident, and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

A spokesman for the PSNI said: “As the matter is subject to ongoing legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for the (PSNI) to make any comment at this time.”

The Taoiseach’s office was contacted.