The Government is to ask the European Court of Human Rights to revise its judgment in the case of the 'Hooded Men', who were subjected to extreme interrogation techniques in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said that on the basis of new material uncovered, the Government will contend that the ill-treatment suffered by the hooded men should be recognised as torture.

A Northern Ireland Office spokeswoman said the UK government was considering the implications of the decision.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the treatment did not amount to torture but the men have always disputed this. 

Five of the hooded men were in the High Court to hear lawyers for the Government announce what the men described as a landmark decision.

The group of men were detained by British security forces in 1971.

They had brought a legal challenge to compel the Government to apply to revise a controversial decision of the European Court in 1978.

The men were subjected to five sensory deprivation techniques; prolonged hooding, being subjected to loud noise, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation, and being forced into stress positions.

The ECHR ruled that the techniques constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but said the evidence did not suggest the techniques constituted torture.

The conclusion was based on medical evidence produced by the British government, which suggested the effect of the five techniques were minor, and due to everyday life in Northern Ireland at the time rather than torture techniques.

The legal challenge came about after a programme for RTÉ's Investigations Unit revealed that the evidence produced to the ECHR was deliberately misleading.

Senior counsel Michael McDowell told the court this afternoon that the Government was to proceed with an application to have the case revised in the ECHR in Strasbourg.

Lawyers for the men involved said this was a very welcome decision and was the first step in vindicating their rights.

Amnesty International has commended the Government's decision. 

Cabinet meeting crucial for 'Hooded Men'

In a statement, Mr Flanagan said that the Government had taken seriously the material in the RTÉ documentary.

The minister said that the request to the European court to revise its judgment had been taken following a review of the recently released documents.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD welcomed the Government’s move.

 “I want to take this opportunity to commend the courage and dedication of the 14 men, the hard work of the their lawyers, the work done by the Pat Finucane Centre, and indeed RTÈ for the major documentary - The Torture Files - which reported on additional new evidence in the case."