A blunder that mars the success of last year’s G8 summit

Morning View
Morning View

Last year the new Libyan leader flew into Northern Ireland, and attended part of the G8 summit.

There were so many famous leaders in Fermanagh in June that Ali Zeidan’s presence at the Lough Erne resort barely registered.

The leaders of major powers such as America and Japan dominated the coverage, and even the arrival of luminaries such as Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, for parts of the summit got lost in the headlines.

But amid the excitement of those sunny days, when the Province’s troubled past seemed distant, and when Barack Obama and David Cameron were seen joking together at an integrated school in Enniskillen, a major blunder was either allowed to happen (or planned to be so).

Mr Zeidan was introduced to, among others, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, once prominent in the IRA.

He was not introduced to the victims of the Provisional bomb at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen in 1987, which is — as Aileen Quinton, whose mother was murdered, describes it — the most high-profile atrocity caused by Col Gaddafi-supplied semtex.

The failure to arrange a meeting between Mr Zeidan and Gaddafi’s victims in such a symbolic setting was a huge missed opportunity, particularly given the past animosity between Gaddafi and current Libyan leaders.

It illustrated the stark disparity between the American battle to get compensation for Lockerbie victims, and Britain’s persistent failure to fight properly for UK IRA victims.

It also gave specific credibility to Mr McGuinness’s reputation as a reformed leader, when in fact he is simultaneously tight-lipped about his personal role in the Troubles while at the helm of an organisation that relentlessly — and at times vindictively — demands full accountability about Britain’s actions during the same period.

It is thanks to Mr Cameron that the G8 was held in Northern Ireland. He could rectify a serious wrong by hosting a meeting at Downing Street between IRA/Gaddafi victims, such as Aileen Quinton, and the new Libyan regime.