Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Why I'm taking the Colonel on in court

IRA bomb victim's battle could help 6,000 Ulster folk

The man leading a landmark legal case over Colonel Gadaffi's IRA links has revealed how he rubbed shoulders with the maverick dictator's entourage months before being blown up in London - by a Libyan-supplied bomb.

In an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mark McDonald said he encountered Gadaffi's "circus-like" troupe in a Tunisian hotel early in 1983 - just months before he was badly injured in the horror Harrods car bomb attack of December 1983.

Mr McDonald (51) who is the front man for the legal case McDonald et al v Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahirya (Libya) , said he was unimpressed by the charade.

"He was travelling through, presumably to the Tunis area.

"At that time the headquarters of the PLO was in Carthage and there were a variety of Arab world meetings taking place in Tunisia, often private meetings.

"The Cuban women carried their machine guns pointed level, all a bit of a show.

"It was hard to think of it as anything but a bit of a circus act.

"I did not actually see Gadaffi, just his troupe, this relating to where I was standing in the hallway as he went through.

"Others working with me and present in the lobby did see him, but standing where I was, I did not," he said.

Mr McDonald (51) is among 170 victims of IRA violence pursuing the case in Washington which if successful, could smooth the way for 6,000 Ulster victims to receive compensation.

Their complaint accuses Libya of supplying the IRA with millions of dollars, weapons, Semtex, training and other assistance from 1972 onwards.

Mr McDonald, who currently lives in Colorado, suffered serious injuries and spent 10 weeks in hospital after the Harrods bombing of 1983.

He underwent 10 operations in the weeks immediately after the bomb to remove the many pieces of shrapnel lodged in his body.

Large pieces are still embedded in his left hip and shoulder 23 years on.

He lost about 80% of his left hamstring as well as muscle and bone from his left hip and shoulder.

His vision was impaired as a result of blood loss and his eardrums were blown out.

It took him several years to be able to walk properly.

Now, however, the oceanographic researcher is fighting fit and is " honoured" to be leading the plaintiff in the multi-billion dollar law suit.

"I certainly never anticipated filing legal action against Colonel Gadaffi.

"I have been very impressed by the attorneys and others I've met who are working on this case, thus I am honoured to be the lead plaintiff and I take the responsibility seriously.

"I am confident I can do a good job, with the help of the many others involved in the case.

"Joining the case was an easy decision, as I find the case is an opportunity to fight terrorism in one more, relatively new, arena," he said.

Mr McDonald was inspired to take the action against Gadaffi after reading about Anne Dammarell who took on the Islamic Republic of Iran last year.

"A Tunisian friend of mine working for the US Agency for International Development was killed in the April 1983 bombing of that case, so it has had a personal impact and has felt more relevant than the Lockerbie or 9/11 cases.

"In part this is because of Dammarell's writing about her case as the lead plaintiff, the detailed information in the filing regarding the individual stories of each of the plaintiffs and the statements from the plaintiffs in the judge's decision.

"Having lived in Tunisia, studied Arabic while there, and having worked with geologists who have lived in Libya, I do feel I know something of that part of the world.

"That said, it is only the people that I have some sense for, while the one word most commonly applied to Colonel Gadaffi is enigmatic, a word choice I agree with based on what I've read."

The case, which started in March, is expected to be lengthy - the translation and issuing of writs to Gadaffi and senior members of Libyan intelligence took a whole month.

Mr McDonald said he hasn't been frustrated.

"I never expected such a case would come out of the bombing, and I moved on with my life relatively soon after the bombing putting it behind me as much as possible.

"From the onset of this case we knew it would be a long process. I have not allowed myself to look too far into the future in this regard.

"What will I do when the case is over?

"As I said earlier, I've moved on with my life and while I am very interested in the case and will give it whatever time necessary, it is not now changing my life greatly nor do I expect it to do so in the future.

"If I do receive financial remuneration I might start off by using the money to get a particularly bothersome piece of shrapnel removed from my shoulder. Hopefully there is enough left over to start a retirement fund," he concluded.

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