Libya-IRA archive ‘will help secure damages’ for victims

Former home secretary Jack Straw told MPs in October that Libya would likely resist any legal claims that it was responsible for arming the IRA.
Former home secretary Jack Straw told MPs in October that Libya would likely resist any legal claims that it was responsible for arming the IRA.

The lawyers who spearheaded the successful civil action against the Omagh bombers have called for the UK to open up its huge archive of information on Libya’s dealings with the IRA.

Matthew Jury and Jason McCue, of McCue & Partners LLP in London, say the government “should not be permitted” to continue to allow the absence of a judicial record of Libya-IRA dealings to “excuse it” from pressing the African state for compensation for victims.

The lawyers previously won a judgement for £1.6m in damages against four men for the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bomb. They are now seeking compensation from Libya for IRA victims on a par with that it previously paid out to its US, French and German victims.

Last month, Parliament’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) published a report which found successive UK governments have failed to help Libya-IRA victims secure compensation. The report noted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) gave evidence that Libya had provided the UK with full information about its IRA dealings in 1995. Libya supplied the IRA with millions of pounds and 120 tonnes of weaponry, including Semtex.

The government said that “whilst there remained gaps and omissions in the information [provided by Libya], we were satisfied that it largely met our expectations, and that it was a positive step towards Libya’s renunciation of terrorism”.

Mr Jury said: “It’s time the public knew the truth about arguably the worst act of terrorism ever carried out against the UK, which was Libya’s arming of the IRA. The government should not be permitted to continue to allow the absence of a judicial record of Libya’s liability to excuse it from entering direct government-to-government negotiations on behalf of the UK victims to fight for just compensation.”

Mr McCue added: “For too often and too long, past and present government leaders have cynically cast doubt on Libya’s responsibility for funding, training and arming the IRA. They’ve done so to justify the whitewashing of this bloody history to protect and propel the interests of big business, oil and arms to Libya.”

Danny Kinahan, UUP election candidate for South Antrim, also called for the UK to open up the files.

“This archive completely erodes the argument put forward by subsequent UK governments that there has never been a formal ruling or judgment determining Libya’s link to, and liability for, IRA terrorism,” he said.