The Tory chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee made a telling comment yesterday.
Simon Hoare MP said: “The government claims it has been taking a more ‘visibly proactive’ approach to securing compensation for victims, but it took my committee to point out that the profits the government has been accruing from frozen Libyan assets could be put to better use.”
He was referring to victims of Libya-IRA terrorism.
As Mr Hoare implies, the ‘proactive’ approach from the government on this issue is far from visible.
In fact, it has long seemed as if the British government is not much interested in securing compensation at all.
This is particularly deplorable, given that US, French and German victims of terror attacks got Libyan compensation.
Much of that related to the shocking Lockerbie bomb horror. But Northern Ireland suffered not just one incident, but numerous horrors, over a period of years, due to shipments of Semtex explosives from Colone Gaddafi’s regime to the IRA in the 1980s.
This facilitated bombings in the Province and elsewhere in the UK.
We can speculate as to the reasons why Britain never pursued compensation in a determined way.
Tony Blair was keen to open up relations and trade with Colonel Gaddafi, and was famously photographed shaking hands with the Libyan leader in his tent in 2004.
That is one side of the equation. But was another side a reluctance to push for damages that necessarily would have highlighted the IRA’s tendency towards atrocities? It was some years after the Gaddafi meeting that the secret On The Run letters were issued to terrorists.
Labour, however, is no longer in power. The Conservatives are in office, propped up by the DUP.
As Ian Paisley MP says, the situation is “disgraceful”.
We need urgent movement on this issue.