MPs vow to continue fighting government for justice for victims of Libya-IRA terrorism
A powerful committee of MPs has vowed to continue fighting for justice for victims of Libya-IRA terrorism after hearing emotional testimony of how atrocities are still wreaking havoc in lives today.
MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) made the comments today after the government refused to release a report on compensation for victims of Libya-IRA terrorism into the public domain several weeks ago, shocking both victims and MPs on the committee.
A number of people whose lives have been devastated by the Semtex explosive supplied to the IRA by Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi during the Troubles gave evidence before the committee today on how the news had impacted them.
The government has previously rejected recommendations from the committee to press Libya to compensate the victims.
Chairman Simon Hoare MP assured victims today that the committee “had their backs” and would continue to press government to secure compensation.
A recurring theme from the victims was that Libya had compensated French, German and US victims of its terror attacks but they believe secret trade deals done between the UK and Libya had frozen them out of equal treatment.
Fermanagh woman Phyllis Carrothers told how her RUC reserve officer husband Douglas was killed by a Semtex bomb in front of her eyes as he reversed out of their driveway in 1991. The murder left the then 34-year-old widow with three young children to support, and with virtually no compensation she was forced to take a full time job.
“Now I am feeling the loss more keenly than ever,” she said, noting how her children had all grown up and had independent lives. “I feel the loss more keenly because I have no companion or the stability that my marriage would have brought.”
Jonathan Ganesh, President of the Docklands Victims’ Association, told the MPs how he had dreams of a professional boxing career and becoming a lawyer when he was caught up in the 1996 IRA Docklands bombing in London. The injuries to his hands and PTSD effectively ended his hope of getting a professional boxing licence and he was mentally unable to complete his law degree. He argued that it was crucial for the UK to act to send out a signal to other dictators that the UK would not tolerate such atrocities against its citizens in future.
And he slammed the government’s stated reason for refusing to release the report - that it had only ever been intended to be a private scoping review.
“I felt the government statement was so disingenuous, so absurd and so preposterous,” he said. “It was unbelievable. They expect victims who have already been traumatised to liaise with the Libyan government. I have actually met with the libyan ambassadors, and believe me, my victims when we left the room, we were traumatised by the event.”
Retired PSNI police officer Billy O’Flaherty told how he suffered horrendous injuries - including the loss of an arm and a leg - as a result of a car bomb which was set off as his patrol car passed it in Cushendall in 1989.
However he could not afford to retire with only six years service and was allowed to continue working as a community police officer to support his family.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell asked the victims: “Do you believe this is the end of the matter or are you - like us - not going to rest until there is some redress?”
Mr Ganesh replied: “There is no doubt in my mind that the surviving victims - so long as we can breathe and talk - we are going to do all we can to rectify this appalling lack of equality that has impacted the lives of countless innocent people.”
DUP MP Ian Paisley put it to Kenny Donaldson, Director of the South East Fermanagh Foundation, that the government is free to use taxes raised from frozen Gaddaffi linked investments in the UK to compensate the victims.
“Do you think then that the government has already have made up their mind and have cold feet - that they are not actually ever going to do this because it might insult Sinn Fein?” the MP asked.
Mr Donaldson responded that William Shawcross, who compiled the report for the government, previously told the committee that he was strongly advised not to meet any victims.
“We need to establish who provided that advice and why did he meet with Sinn Fein at Stormont,” Mr Donaldson replied.
He added: “What efforts have there been in terms of a criminal prosecution of those responsible for procuring the weaponry from Libya? I think that all features in not wanting to rock the boat and the peace process.”
Mr Hoare noted that the government argued that to compensate the victims “could cause problems between families neighbours and communities” but that he did not find this to be “a plausible scenario”.
Mr O’Flaherty responded: “I think the only people who would take offence at payments to victims are the people who carried out the actions”.
Mrs Carrothers said the suggestion was “an ugly concept” which nobody had ever expressed to her.
“The people who perpetrated the heinous acts - they would be the ones most likely to object,” she agreed.
Mr Hoare assured the victims that the committee would continue to fight for them.
“You are not going away and I want the three of you to know all of us on the committee - irrespective of party affiliation - want you to know we are not going to go away either,”
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