The British Government has not thrown its full weight behind the fight for compensation for the victims of Libyan-supplied Semtex, MPs have heard.
And, if it fails to access the hundreds of millions of pounds in frozen assets belonging to former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a “once in a lifetime opportunity” could be missed, a leading lawyer has warned.
High-profile solicitor Paul Tweed said: “I do not know whether they (Government) have been in the ring in the first place.
“I do not think they have got to the stage of throwing the towel in.”
Mr Tweed was giving evidence to an inquiry by the House of Commons Northern Ireland Committee into the failure to secure compensation for the British victims, who were locked out of a 2008 deal which saw around £1 billion go to US victims of Libyan-sponsored terror.
The Belfast-based lawyer, who has represented Hollywood A-listers such as Britney Spears, Harrison Ford and Nicholas Cage, has been providing legal advice to Northern Ireland’s Troubles victims for free.
He added: “It beggars belief that we are sitting here having this conversation and that UK victims have been ignored.”
At least £900 million of Gaddafi’s huge fortune has been frozen in the UK since around 2011. The sum includes bank accounts, shares and investments in commodities.
The committee has previously heard that an Act of Parliament could release it to those bereaved and injured in IRA bombs.
The interest alone is estimated at between half and one billion.
It could be used to establish a benevolent compensation fund could for individuals affected by the Troubles while punitive compensation could be spent on public projects such as hospitals, it was argued.
But, Mr Tweed warned: “There is a finite time to deal with this and my concern is that we are losing that opportunity.”
Meanwhile, well-known victims campaigner Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aidan was killed in the 1998 Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh, told MPs the Libyan-supplied Semtex had perpetuated the sectarian conflict.
He said compensation should be given to the thousands of people affected by terror groups of all creed.
“I think the British Government has a moral obligation to all those victims regardless of whether they are Catholic or Protestant or what community they come from.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a real peace dividend, not only for the benefit of the victims but for the benefit of the wider community.”