UK accused of failing victims of IRA killed by Libya-supplied weapons

Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent
Muammar Gaddafi’s regime supplied the IRA with tonnes of weapons including semtex explosives. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

British governments have repeatedly let down IRA victims who were injured or had loved ones killed with Libyan-supplied weapons, a high-powered parliamentary report has concluded.

The Northern Ireland affairs committee at Westminster is expected to accuse successive Labour and Tory administrations of failing to offer proper support to those individuals and families caught up in IRA terror attacks in which Libyan arms and explosives were used.

The committee will state on Tuesday that UK governments repeatedly failed to raise the issue of compensation from the post-Gaddafi Libyan regime at the UN security council.

Libyan assets still frozen in Britain should now be used as bargaining chips to extract compensation from the government in Tripoli for certain IRA victims, the committee also recommends.

In its damning report the committee claims the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition under David Cameron and Nick Clegg failed to make any progress on the issue because the MPs believe instead it was focused on pursuing business opportunities in Libya.

In the early 1970s and later in the 80s, Muammar Gaddafi’s regime supplied the Provisional IRA with tonnes of weapons including semtex explosive, which was made in the Czech Republic.

The odourless semtex was used as a powerful booster for bombs that devastated parts of the City of London as well as other British cities during the latter days of the Troubles.

The Gaddafi regime also supplied more than 1,000 assault rifles to the IRA – enough to arm two infantry battalions. On top of the guns the then Libyan regime also smuggled flame-throwers, Soviet-made grenades, mines and anti-aircraft weapons to the IRA.

In 1995, as part of efforts to improve relations with western nations, the Libyan regime gave John Major’s government, via the UN security council, the entire inventory of weaponry it sent to the PIRA and vowed to stop smuggling guns and explosives to Irish republican terror groups.

A number of victims of Libyan-supplied IRA bombs have been involved in a long-running legal battle to gain compensation from the new government in Tripoli.

The claimants backed by London law firm McCue & Partners include victims of the Harrods explosion, including a US citizen caught in the IRA bomb attack in Knightsbridge, London, and victims of other atrocities, both in England and Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Among those seeking compensation are relatives of the 11 Protestant civilians killed by an IRA semtex bomb at the Enniskillen war memorial on Remembrance Sunday in 1987.

On the implications to the parliamentary committee’s report, Jason McCue, senior partner at McCue & Partners, said: “The report is unequivocal that, time and time again, Her Majesty’s government has failed the UK victims, specifically in our civil action and more generally, and, as a result, they have been denied just compensation. Its conclusions are damning, including that HMG was too focused on pursuing business opportunities, rather than making sure that UK victims of terrorism were properly looked after.

“As a result, it missed numerous opportunities to resolve the issue. For HMG to refuse now to act on the report’s recommendations would be a national scandal and disgrace. The committee has concluded that HMG should immediately enter into government-to-government negotiations and use all its diplomatic leverage, including the £9bn of Libyan frozen assets held in the UK, to resolve the issue.”

Matthew Jury, managing partner at the firm, which successfully pursued Real IRA leaders through the civil courts over the Omagh bomb atrocity of 1998, added: “While the US, France and Germany all secured just reparations for their victims of Libyan terrorism, we have sat on the sidelines not wanting to rock the boat for fear of British trade in oil and arms losing out. Profit has been put over principle time and time again and this has to end.”

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