Belfast Telegraph

Government's snub to Libyan terror payout scheme 'one of worst injustices in UK history'

by Donna Deeney and Allan Preston

The Government's rejection of a compensation fund for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA violence is "one of the worst injustices in the history of the United Kingdom", it has been claimed.

For years Jonathan Ganesh, a survivor of the 1996 Docklands bomb, has campaigned for financial redress for all victims of IRA Semtex bomb attacks.

Yesterday he said that the UK government's stance was "shameful" in comparison to the compensation secured from Libya by the French, German and US governments.

A recommendation by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee for a UK reparations fund was roundly rejected by the Government, which said a fund for a specific group of victims presented it with "potential challenges".

The Government said: "The government notes the potential challenges of making additional UK resources available specifically to the victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism, which would need to be considered carefully against government support to victims of terrorism more generally, including in Northern Ireland."

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said compensation from Libya was a private matter for individual victims.

Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader, maintained a flow of guns and Semtex explosives used by IRA bombers during the Troubles, including the Enniskillen bomb in 1987, the 1993 Shankill bomb and the Docklands bomb in 1996.

Mr Ganesh, who was badly injured at Docklands, said: "This is perhaps one of the worst injustices in the history of the United Kingdom. What the UK government has done is shameful, they expect victims, many of whom have suffered severe trauma, are in wheelchairs, suffer PTSD and have colostomy bags, to take on the Libyan government.

"Victims in both the mainland UK and in Northern Ireland have sold their houses in order to pay for the care they receive.

"They have abandoned us and poured salt into our wounds by saying compensation is a private matter - how insulting, how disgusting."

Stephen Gault lost his father Samuel in the Enniskillen IRA bomb of 1987.

He was also among 200 families who started a legal challenge for compensation against the Libyan government 15 years ago.

"It doesn't surprise me they're doing a U-turn like this," he said, adding that he was "disgusted" to learn of the decision through the media rather than from the Government.

Mr Gault said the delays meant many of the survivors have died without help.

"With the Enniskillen bomb, there's at least five people passed away who were part of the original legal challenge, my mother (Gladys) included," he said.

Neil Tattersall (47) was badly injured in 1992 by an IRA bomb attack in Manchester. He was in his early 20s and waiting the birth of his first child.

Twenty-five years later, he continues to feel the physical and mental scars.

"Every country in the Western World looks after its citizens, but in the British government they just keep on slapping us down," he said.

"I feel they have defecated on us from a great height once again. I know this is a graphic way of putting it, but I cannot emphasise how strongly I feel that they don't give a damn about their own citizens."

Another victim, Noel Downey, also spoke of his anger.

In 1990, the off-duty UDR man - then aged 26 - lost a leg in Lisnaskea to an IRA car bomb.

"It's absolutely ridiculous now for the Government to say this is a private matter for victims," he said. "For starters, half of us will be dead before we could ever bring a deal with the Libyan government to fruition.

"Also we don't have the resources to take this through the courts. The money's sitting in the Treasury, it's there to be used and it's a pity it can't be made available to victims of Semtex like myself," he added.

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