Belfast Telegraph

Bomb victims deserve government support

Editor's Viewpoint

There is no doubt that former Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi helped prolong and intensify the IRA's terrorist campaign both in Northern Ireland and in Britain. He donated arms, including surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Semtex explosives and £5m in funds during the 1970s and 1980s.

At least seven successful shipments got through, making the IRA the best equipped it had ever been.

These weapons and explosives were directly responsible for some of the most horrific terrorist acts of the Troubles: the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing, in which 11 people died in 1987; the explosion at Baltic Exchange in London, which killed three people and injured 90 in 1992; the murder of two young boys in Warrington in an explosion in 1993; and the huge Docklands explosion in 1996, which broke the IRA's ceasefire. Two people were killed that day and many more were injured due to the use of Semtex.

But that only scratches the surface of the death and destruction caused by the Libyan connection to the IRA.

Little wonder that victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism have demanded that the UK Government seek compensation from the north African country's rulers. Shamefully, only Northern Ireland and British victims have been denied that compensation.

America gained around £1bn in compensation from Libya for victims of international terrorism, as did Germany and France.

Now the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has accused successive British governments of letting down UK victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism, pointing out a number of missed opportunities to at least press the case.

The death of Gaddafi in 2011 during an uprising complicated matters as his execution was followed by political instability.

However, there is an alternative approach, as the NI Affairs Committee pointed out. The UK has frozen £9.5bn of Libyan funds that could be used as a bargaining chip in obtaining compensation from the country's rulers.

If all else fails, the committee has urged the next UK Government to finance a compensation fund for the victims and survivors.

Legacy issues have been allowed to drag on unresolved in Northern Ireland, and it would heap insult on injury for the UK Government to continue to drag its heels on this singular issue.

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