Compensation for Libya-IRA victims must not go off radar

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Some aspects of the political settlement in Northern Ireland have become so entrenched that it is easy to forget the range of ways in which the IRA has been facilitated.

This is in large part because Sinn Fein had to be included in any deal. Even after the paramilitary affronts to democracy of spying at Stormont, breaking into Castlereagh, murdering Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank heist, London seemed prepared only to consider two options: business as usual or punishment for everyone (ie suspension of Stormont). Unionists were warned that if they did not accommodate Sinn Fein, worse would be imposed on the Province.

The facilitating of the IRA has long been apparent in the contrast between the treatment of British victims of IRA-Libyan violence and other international victims of Libyan terror.

The Americans got compensation the Lockerbie atrocity but the notion of compensation for IRA victims went off the radar for years. However, activists such as Jonathan Ganesh and politicians including Lord Empey have kept it alive.

It was clear long ago, in the early 1980s, that Libya was a rogue state under Colonel Gaddafi. Today we report on fresh evidence of that inclination. Declassified Dublin papers show that Libya planned to give $50 million to the IRA in return for killing Margaret Thatcher. The IRA had almost done exactly that, in its terrorist assault on a democratically-elected government in the 1984 Brighton bomb.

The mooted Libya-IRA bid to again try to murder Mrs Thatcher came two years later, after Britain had stood shoulder to shoulder with America in its April 1986 bombing of Tripoli (in a typically robust Washington response to terrorism).

Lord Empey believes the prospect of compensation for IRA-Libya victims is advancing. This is a welcome assessment.

The UK government must not let the matter drop, as some officials in the past seemed prepared to do, as they sought to avoid the inconvenience of having the world reminded of the IRA’s crimes.