Foreign Secretary Boris Johnston raised compensation for IRA victims in a meeting with Libya’s prime minister in Tripoli last week, the News Letter can confirm.
The fact Mr Johnson raised the matter in Libya was reported in the media based on an unnamed source last week, but the News Letter can now confirm that Mr Johnson did indeed raise the matter in Tripoli – and with Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
Last Tuesday, a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) report said that Libya-IRA victims had been let down by successive UK governments in their campaign for compensation, with a litany of missed opportunities. Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi had been the main weapons and explosives supplier to the IRA.
The MPs’ report recommended that by the end of this year – unless a deal with Libya looks likely – the UK should fund payments to IRA victims while negotiations continue. Some £9.5bn of Gaddafi-linked assets are currently frozen in the UK.
Mr Johnson flew to Tripoli two days after the MPs’ report to support the Libyan peace process. The Sun reported Mr Johnson told the Libyans that compensation was a top priority in reaching a diplomatic deal and – according to a Sun source – “he raised it a huge amount and very forcefully”.
However, a reliable source has now confirmed to the News Letter that the story is indeed true – and that Mr Johnson raised it with the Libyan prime minister himself.
The FCO said: “The government supports UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism in their attempts to seek redress and continue to make clear to the Libyan authorities that resolution of legacy issues remains a priority for us.”
Omagh bomb civil action lawyers Jason McCue and Matthew Jury, who are acting for IRA victims, welcomed the fact that Mr Johnson raised the matter with Mr al-Serraj.
“It is encouraging that the foreign secretary shares our view that our victims should be compensated in parity with what the US victims received from Libya,” said senior partner Mr McCue.
Managing partner, Mr Jury, added that it was “absolutely fundamental to defeating terrorism” to make it clear to sponsoring states that “there is no way back to good foreign relations with our country until that debt is paid in full and justice done”.
It should now be the UK’s “top priority to secure justice for these British victims” he added.
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United welcomed the meeting between Mr Johnson and the Libyan prime minister but added: “We now want to hear from Mr Johnson what he will tangibly do in order to advance this issue, particularly in light of last week’s NIAC report”.