A red line over EU customs – why not one for victims?

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

There has been much furore in the media lately regarding Brexit and the DUP’s “red lines”.

An article in the Daily Mail carries the headline “DUP calls for Theresa May to be sacked over Brexit row...” and in the News Letter Sammy Wilson is quoted as saying the party had “a duty to use whatever influence we have” to protect Northern Ireland’s place within the union.

A number of your readers will no doubt be aware of the campaign to obtain compensation from Libya for their supply of Semtex to PIRA. Indeed, Libya has already compensated German and French nationals caught up in Libya sponsored terrorism, and an American national caught up in the Harrods bomb received millions of dollars compensation, while the British victims received nothing.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC), of which a number of members were DUP MPs, sought to right a wrong by investigating the issue of UK government support – or lack of – for the British victims.

The committee published its report in summer 2017 and called on the government to help the victims, some of whom needed medical care, with others virtually destitute.

The government’s response to the report and its recommendations was nothing short of shameful. They rejected the report and its findings.

So when the DUP found themselves holding the balance of power in Westminster, the victims were no doubt optimistic that their cries for help would finally be heard.

Indeed the News Letter 3/7/17 carried the headline “Canary Wharf victim reassured by (Jeffrey) Donaldson on Libya-IRA compensation”.

And who could blame him? The DUP leader herself was on record as saying that the British victims should be compensated as the French, Germans and Americans had been.

Now we cut to May 10, 2018, where we have a debate in Westminster on the issue of compensation. Before the debate, the government announced that Libyans who were apparently illegally rendered to Libya by Tony Blair’s government would receive half a million pounds compensation. The victims no doubt were now of the opinion that with the DUP holding the balance of power and with the government compensating Libyans, that after 10 years of campaigning they were close to the finish line.

This notion was promptly kicked into the gutter when, even after hearing that one of the Semtex victims had taken her own life, the government basically told the victims to get stuffed.

And what was the DUP’s response to a government that had, in effect, given victims of terrorism a kick in the teeth?

NIAC released a statement calling the governments response to their report “unacceptable”. And that was that.

Imagine, then, the reaction of the victims when they see the DUP foaming at the mouth, calling for the Prime Minister to be sacked and threatening to bring down the government... over the customs union post-Brexit.

Terrorists treated better than victims, the government compensating Libyans and not helping UK victims obtain compensation from Libya, victims driven to suicide. And the DUP look the other way.

Possible customs border in the Irish Sea, and the DUP turn on the Tories like a rabid wolf.

And there we have it, the DUP’s bluster and Arlene Foster’s calls for the victims to be compensated was merely hot air, soundbites that look good in a headline. It is a shame the “duty” of the party that Sammy Wilson speaks of, doesn’t extend to keeping its promises and helping their voters.

Andrew Magowan, Belfast BT4