Official inquiry due to begin on Libyan-IRA compensation

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, pictured in 2009
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, pictured in 2009

An inquiry is soon to begin in Westminster into the issue of compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA violence.

The News Letter has learned that the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will hold the roughly two week-long public investigation during September.

It has invited committee members to share views on how the inquiry should work by tomorrow, at the latest.

Soon afterwards it will invite victims and their representatives to submit written evidence, which it can take then into account when it holds the hearings.

Specifically, the inquiry will look at how effective the UK government’s efforts have been in trying to obtain compensation for the victims of the Libyan-backed attacks.

It particularly wants to hear about what the situation is currently like for UK residents who were injured or bereaved as a result of violence fuelled by Semtex and other armaments from the north African state.

As well as calling forward victims and their representatives to give evidence, UK government figures are also expected to be called before the committee during these public evidence sessions.

These figures will possibly include the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, and the Prime Minister’s national security advisor Sir Kim Darroch.

The campaign group Innocent Victims United (IVU) said that survivors of republican violence should seize the opportunity to make their voices heard.

While Troubles victims can receive help with such things as counselling and respite trips, it has long been claimed that the Libyan government should offer financial packages for victims.

This has already happened in the case of the Lockerbie atrocity, for which the Libyan regime was held responsible.

In 2006, a writ calling for compensation for victims of the IRA was issued against Libya’s Gaddafi regime.

Colonel Gaddafi – who had ruled the country as a dictator since 1969 – was overthrown in 2011, with the UK launching airstrikes against his forces.

He was killed by a street mob in October that year.

Earlier this year, the UN issued a report stating the country is currently in a state of “turmoil and lawlessness, inflamed by a multitude of competing, heavily armed groups”.

It has previously been suggested that compensation for IRA victims could be obtained through frozen UK-based assets belonging to the wealthy dictator and his family.

This is one of the specific matters which the committee will be exploring.

It is understood the government planned to reveal the inquiry this Friday.

The committee is currently made up of five Conservatives, three Labour members, two from the DUP, and one from the UUP and SDLP – plus independent MP Sylvia Hermon.

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for IVU (which he said represents around 11,500 people) gave a “cautious welcome” to the news of an inquiry.

“There have been many false dawns over the years. Victims and survivors must now be treated with respect and be allowed to live out their lives comfortably and with dignity,” he said.

“They must cease to be treated as pariahs – that label belongs to the Libyan regime that worked in partnership with the fascist PIRA terror regime.”

He added: “It’s important that organisations and individuals who represent the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism affected by Libyan Semtex and weaponry make their voices heard throughout this inquiry process.”