‘Museum of evil’: IRA victim’s anger at Gaddafi’s shoes on display in republican collection

A victim of a massive IRA bomb has expressed disbelief that shoes belonging to “evil” dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi are proudly on display in a republican museum.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 10:18 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 3:34 pm
Kevin Carson curator of Roddy McCorley Society living history museum in Belfast holds a pair of Col Muammar Gaddafi's slippers. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Kevin Carson curator of Roddy McCorley Society living history museum in Belfast holds a pair of Col Muammar Gaddafi's slippers. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Jonathan Ganesh – a relative of De Valera – was seriously injured in the 1996 Canary Wharf bomb in London which used Libyan Semtex supplied to the IRA by Gaddafi. The explosion killed two people and caused some £150m worth of damage.

Now the President of the Dockland’s Victims Association, Mr Ganesh, reacted with horror when he heard that a Belfast musuem is seeking official recognition – with Gaddafi’s shoes in pride of place.

“You are joking? I find this utterly unbelievable. Surely this is a sick joke?” he said.

Wreckage of the army vehicles after the IRA bomb attack at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint. A damaged army rifle from the scene is now on display in a republican museum in Belfast.

He was speaking after The Press Association reported that a collection of Troubles-era artefacts in west Belfast is attempting to secure official museum status ahead of a major expansion.

It has also been revealed that the museum is giving exhibition space to a badly damaged army issue rifle a member of the public apparently found close to the site of the Narrow Water bombings which killed 18 soldiers in 1979.

UUP Chairman Danny Kennedy also took issue with the rifle being on show.

“It is clearly unacceptable and it would be a concern if this was in receipt of public funding,” he said. “It is worrying that this could be glorifying republican violence.”

Over the last five decades, the Roddy McCorley Society in west Belfast has amassed a large number of items related to the Troubles and associated with the republican tradition.

It includes decorative shoes the Libyan dictator apparently gifted to IRA leader Joe Cahill during a visit to his North African regime to secure arms and for the Provisionals.

Among the weaponry the IRA obtained from Gaddafi’s Libya were tonnes of Semtex explosive used in some of the most notorious bomb attacks of the Troubles, including those at Warrington, Enniskillen and Ballygawley.

Nine years on from Gaddafi’s death, relatives of those killed continue to campaign for compensation from the current Libyan authorities.

The government has refused to act on recommendations to help made by the NI Affairs Committee of MP.

Society committee member Kevin Carson said Gaddafi’s shoes were “very valuable” and continued to generate significant interest among visitors. A TV crew from the Middle East visited during the summer to film Mr Carson recounting the story of the shoes.

“Joe Cahill, one of our major republican personalities over the years, had been in Libya on a number of occasions to meet Gaddafi and on one of the occasions he met Muammar Gaddafi in the desert after a great long journey in the sun and heat and dryness, because Gaddafi in those days could never stay in one spot,” he said.

“Joe on that occasion was presented by Muammar Gaddafi with these slippers as a souvenir of this visit.”

Mr Ganesh noted that among countless human rights abuses, the dictator was involved in the kidnap, rape and murder of many Iraqi teenage girls, whom he personally selected n trips to schools and universities.

“I don’t know what they are doing in Northern Ireland,” Mr Ganesh said. “It is like some sick comedy show – that man has done so much evil. This is just unbelievable, it is terrible.

“These shoes were given to a terrorist who was meeting Gaddafi to secure Semtex, which was then used to inflict pain and death on innocent women and children.”

“And to think that ever since the UK has done nothing to hold Libya to account, while the US, Germany and France have all secured compensation for their victims of Libyan sponsored terrorism.”

Mr Ganesh’s injuries from the Canary Wharf bomb included 33% burns, loss of hearing in one ear, PTSD, constant pain in his back and hand and extensive shrapnel wounds.

Despite his own injuries, in the aftermath of the bomb the then keen amateur boxer exerted himself for a prolonged period to help other casualties before collapsing and being taken to hospital. He was later given an award for bravery.

His mother, Patricia Coll, was Irish and he grew up in Co Limerick, moving to London when he was seven. Former Irish President Eamon de Valera’s mother was his grandmother’s sister.

The Roddy McCorley Society has already secured Belfast City Council backing to transform its present home above the Roddy McCorley Social Club on the Glen Road into a purpose-built museum.

It is hoping to achieve museum accreditation and recently met with National Museums NI. The director of National Museums NI, Kathryn Thomson, said it is always willing to offer expert advice and support to community led initiatives. “Within this context we welcomed the opportunity to visit the Roddy McCorley Museum recently and look forward to seeing their project develop,” she added.